Unemployment rates in Brevard County and statewide inched higher in October, newly released data shows.
The report from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity also indicates that some southwest Florida counties hit by Hurricane Ian in late September had significantly higher unemployment rates in October. Ian was a Category 4 storm when it made landfall near Fort Myers on Sept. 28.
In Brevard County, the unemployment rate rose to 2.6% in October, up from 2.5% in September, but down from 3.3% in October 2021.
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The number of employed Brevard County residents fell from 296,019 in September to 293,445 in October. The number of unemployed Brevard residents rose from 7,605 in September to 7,854 in October.
The statewide figures showed the unemployment rate rising from 2.5% in September to 2.7% in October. It was 3.7% in October 2021. September's 2.5% rate was the lowest in Florida since October 2006.
Jimmy Heckman, bureau chief of workforce statistics and economic research for the Department of Economic Opportunity, said Hurricane Ian was a contributing factor in the October's increase in the statewide jobless rate, as coastal southwest Florida counties all experienced increases in their unemployment rates.
Heckman noted during a media briefing that unemployment rates rose in October by 1.3% in Lee County, 1.0% in Charlotte County, 0.3% in Collier County and 0.2% in Sarasota County.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, in a separate statement, downplayed the increase in Florida's jobless rate.
“Florida’s economic resiliency is unmatched in the country," DeSantis said. "No other state could withstand the direct impact of a Category 4 hurricane and continue to grow jobs in the same month. We have made record investments in our infrastructure and workforce, while building a record budget surplus and providing record tax reduction for Floridians.”
Locally, nine of the 10 major job sectors in Brevard County had year-over-year jobs gains in October, according to CareerSource Brevard. They were education and health services (+2,000 jobs); leisure and hospitality (+1,900 jobs); manufacturing (+1,700 jobs); trade, transportation and utilities (+900 jobs); professional and business services (+700 jobs); other services (+600 jobs); construction, mining and logging (+400 jobs); government (+300 jobs); and financial activities (+200 jobs). No industries lost jobs over the year. The Information industry industry was unchanged in jobs over the year.
Where Brevard ranks
Brevard County's unemployment rate of 2.6% was tied for the 16th-lowest among Florida's 67 counties. Brevard was tied for the fifth-lowest among Florida's 24 metropolitan areas.
In October, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties had the state’s lowest unemployment rate (1.7% each), followed by St. Johns County (2.1%) and Okaloosa County (2.2%).
Hendry County had the state's highest unemployment rate (4.5%), followed by
Highlands County (4.3%), and Charlotte and Citrus counties (4.0% each).
Among metropolitan areas, Miami/Miami Beach/Kendall had the lowest rate (1.7%) and Sebring has the highest rate (4.3%).
Statewide, in October, there were 10,465,000 employed people and 285,000 unemployed people actively looking for work. The number of employed people is up 18,000 or 0.2% for the month, and up 435,000 or 4.3% for the year. The number of unemployed people is up 19,000 or 7.1% for the month, but down 101,000 or 26.2% for the year.
Heckman said a growing percentage of Florida's unemployed have either voluntarily left their jobs to look for a better job, are reentering the labor force or are newly joining the labor force — rather than being laid off. He said growth in those categories is considered a sign of "an active and healthy labor market."
The total number of non-agricultural jobs in Florida was 9,542,500 in October, up 36,400 or 0.4% for the month and up 457,400 or 5.0% for the year.
Positive data cited
DeSantis and Heckman cited these figures in pointing to the strength of the job market in Florida:
The state's 2.7% unemployment rate was lower than the national rate of 3.7%.
Florida’s statewide unemployment rate has been lower than the national rate for 23 consecutive months since December 2020.
Between October 2021 and October 2022, Florida’s labor force grew by 334,000 or 3.2%. This was faster than the national labor force growth rate of 1.9% over the year.
Between October 2021 and October 2022, total private-sector employment grew by 447,800 jobs or 5.6%, faster than the national private-sector job growth rate of 4.0% over the year.
As of October 2022, Florida employers have added jobs for 30 consecutive months since May 2020.
Florida’s private sector over-the-year job growth rate has exceeded the nation’s for 19 consecutive months since April 2021.
All nine major private-sector industries in Florida have recovered to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels of February 2020.
Hurricane Ian impacts
In discussing the southwest Florida data, Heckman said Charlotte, Collier, Lee and Sarasota counties historically have seen seasonal decreases in unemployment in October, as the tourist season there begins. But Hurricane Ian likely was the driving factor in the increase in the jobless rates there.
In October, the number of unemployed people increased by 4,951 in Lee County, 820 in Charlotte County, 591 in Collier County, 473 in Sarasota County — a four-county total of 6,835.
Heckman said the time period it will take to see the job recovery in that area is difficult to predict.
“With Hurricane Charley, that hit the same area back in 2004, we see a recovery where the job numbers returned to pre-hurricane levels within a couple of months,” Heckman said.
“We also have examples like Hurricane Michael that hit the Panama City (metropolitan statistical area) and the areas surrounding, where that recovery took a lot longer," Heckman said. "I think, even kind of into 2022, we were still seeing some sectors that were below their pre-hurricane Michael employment levels.” Hurricane Michael hit in October 2018.
Separate data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that difficulty of Florida employers in filling available jobs may be jetting less pronounced.
The latest-available data from the bureau's Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, known as JOLTS, showed that there were 606,000 job openings in Florida in September, down 15,000 from August and down 65,000 from September 2021.
It found that there were 424,000 new hiring in September, up 17,000 from August and down 15,000 from September 2021.
The Department of Economic Opportunity tracks unemployment rates for Brevard's five most populous cities. Here are those numbers:
Melbourne: 2.8% in October, up from 2.6% in September. The rate peaked at 13.0% in April 2020 and was 2.7% just before the COVID-19 pandemic in February 2020.
Palm Bay: 2.9% in October, up from 2.8% in September. The rate peaked at 12.6% in April 2020 and was 2.8% just before the pandemic in February 2020.
Rockledge: 2.1% in October, up from 1.9% in September. The rate peaked at 11.5% in April 2020 and was 2.6% just before the pandemic in February 2020.
Titusville: 2.7% in October, up from 2.6% in September. The rate peaked at 14.5% in April 2020 and was 2.9% just before the pandemic in February 2020.
West Melbourne: 2.2% in October, up from 2.1% in September. Data for West Melbourne was not tracked separately in 2020.
This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Unemployment rises Brevard, Florida; Hurricane Ian job losses reported