Florida wrestles with 500,000 job openings as 503,000 remain out of work

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Florida now has about one job opening for every out-of-work resident, new state data showed Friday.

The state added 35,800 private sector jobs last month, its 13th consecutive month of job growth. Yet more than 500,000 jobs remain available in Florida, despite an almost equal number of people, 503,000, saying they are out of work and looking for a job.

“Florida businesses are trying to fill vacancies and are actually having a difficult time hiring,” said Dane Eagle, head of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, in a statement. “Businesses across the state continue to provide Floridians with opportunities for meaningful employment and economic freedom.”

Among those struggling to hire is Susan Oliveira, executive vice president at marine repair shop Mendol USA in Fort Lauderdale.

“We cannot find skilled labor, and even non-skilled labor,” she said. “We reached out to different technical schools here in Florida and asked if you have any kind of diesel engine training, like for truck engines. Nothing. It’s almost impossible to find technicians.”

The state’s unemployment rate crept up 0.1 percentage points to 4.9%, reflecting an increase in confidence about job availability and job seekers rejoining the workforce.

An upcoming job fair June 24 at the BB&T Center produced by JobNewsUSA is being billed as the largest that group has ever hosted. Tiffany Price, general manager at JobNewsUSA, said she expects more than 1,000 job seekers to hear about some 4,500 openings being advertised by at least 75 different employers, from Homestead to Jupiter.

“Employers are being extremely competitive to get good talent,” Price said in an email. “They are offering $150 bonuses just for filling out an application if they hire you, $500 sign-on bonuses for dishwashers, and $1,000 sign-on bonuses for janitors, cooks, and waitstaff.”

One company is even offering full green card sponsorship to licensed nurses and their families for coming aboard, Price said.

Effective June 26, Florida is ending the ability of unemployment filers to accept federal pandemic jobless assistance, in a move designed to encourage workers to fill the openings. Yet of the 503,000 Floridians who say they are unemployed, only about 100,000 are actively accepting jobless benefits.

Jennifer Shaw, a Tampa Bay-area resident, said in an email that she believes the extra benefits are helping workers to avoid taking jobs that pay salaries that are too low. Her husband, a technical engineer, spent weeks searching for work until he found a full-time gig paying $25 an hour.

“I really believe that the unemployment benefits are helping people to negotiate a more living wage for themselves,” she said in the email. “People are not settling for less pay anymore.”

The state data released Friday showed Miami-Dade with the state’s highest county unemployment rate, at 6.7%. Monroe County now enjoys the state’s lowest rate, at 3.1%. Broward’s rate stands at 5.2%.

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