For the second month in a row, the unemployment rate has dropped in Charlotte and Sarasota counties. But in Florida overall, the jobless rate rose slightly.
“The reason why we are going into a downward trend in unemployment in Southwest Florida has to do with its very strong construction industry gaining jobs, compared to the state as a whole which has lost jobs in construction,” said Janeth Castrejon, Communications Manager for CareerSource Southwest Florida. “We’ve remained strong and stable in that field.”
Florida’s jobless rate was 7.6% in September, up from 7.4% in August, according to data released by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity on Friday.
September’s labor statistics reflect the continued effects of COVID-19 and the efforts to reopen businesses and services, the DEO said.
The Punta Gorda metro area has gained more non-agricultural jobs year-over than any other metro statistical area in the state, with 600 jobs gained in the past year. It’s one of only four metro areas in Florida to gain jobs — most lost thousands.
Charlotte County’s September jobless rate was 5.9%, down from 6.5% in August, but up from last year’s September unemployment rate of 3.5%. Sarasota County's unemployment rate was 5.6% in September, down from its 6.1% rate in August, but up from its 2.9% jobless rate in September of 2019.
The Punta Gorda metro area is one of only four metro areas in Florida that experienced an over-the-year job gain in September — and with over 600 new jobs, it’s gained more nonagricultural jobs than any other MSA.
Charlotte County’s labor force is also growing, meaning that more residents are ready to go back to work, pushed on by the need to apply for jobs due to the stop of the extra $600 of federal unemployment benefits that individuals were receiving until July.
“If we think about it realistically, the maximum amount (unemployed people can receive now) is $275; that’s not enough to keep a household afloat,” Castrejon said. “So we’ve seen people being proactive and as soon as the federal unemployment funds stopped, individuals have been looking for work.”
The labor force is also expected to shoot up in December, when the state will again require residents who receive unemployment benefits to prove that they are looking for work. That requirement was halted at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Castrejon advises people to look for work now, before it becomes a major competition in December.
“We’re going to see a huge wave of individuals looking for employment (after December 5),” she said. “It will be some time before we can see the full positive effects of coming out of COVID-19, but these trends are showing that we're getting there.”
Local unemployment rates
September 2019; August 2020; September 2020
Charlotte: 3.5%; 6.5%; 5.9%
Sarasota: 2.9%; 6.1%; 5.6%
DeSoto: 3.3%; 4.2%; 4%
Florida: 3.2%; 7.4%; 7.6%
U.S.: 3.5%; 8.4%; 7.9%
Florida and U.S. data are seasonally adjusted.