FILE - Florida, now hiring, help wanted, jobs, Virus Outbreak Unemployment Benefits

A sign looking to hire employees is displayed at the entrance to a Bed, Bath and Beyond store, Tuesday, May 4, 2021, in Miami. 

(The Center Square) – Florida has recovered more than 950,000 jobs since the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the nation’s economy last spring with mandatory business shutdowns that inflicted sudden but enduring damage on the Sunshine State’s $90 billion tourist/hospitality industry.

According to Florida Chamber of Commerce Chief Economist Dr. Jerry Parrish, the state has come a long way since the mass furloughs and layoffs of April 2020, which temporarily cost as many as 1.3 million Floridians their jobs.

“We still have a few more (jobs to gain) to go get back to the peak of 9 million non-farm jobs” in the state, Parrish said in a recently-posted August edition of the Chamber’s Florida By the Numbers video presentation.

Citing the metrics in the Chamber’s Florida Scorecard, Parrish said about 315,800 jobs that existed before the pandemic have not, thus far, been “recovered,” even though the number of jobs available in the state now exceeds job openings prior to March 2020.

“Of the 315,800 jobs we are still trying to recover,” Parrish said, 63% – or about 194,000 jobs – are in the economy’s leisure and hospitality sector. The state has not recovered 30,000 education and health service jobs or 27,000 jobs in the trade and transportation sector, according to the Chamber.

Since January, Florida businesses have restored 264,300 jobs of the 950,000 that have been recovered since April 2020. That pace is accelerating, especially in the leisure/hospitality sector, Parrish said.

“In the last two months, there has been a recovery of nearly 140,000 jobs,” he said.

Parrish said despite the loss of more than 300,000 former jobs, Florida employers still face a “workforce crisis as we work our way back to pre-COVID numbers” because they are finding it difficult to fill new positions.

“Currently, we have 545,200 jobs looking for people, an increase from last month's 528,300, and 530,000 people still looking for jobs – simply not enough Floridians with the proper skills to fill in the gaps,” Parrish said, citing last week’s unemployment figures posted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor that said Florida’s unemployment rate was 5.1%, more than 1.2% higher than February 2020.

Florida’s June unemployment rate was 5%, reflecting that an estimated 523,000 Floridians qualified as unemployed from a workforce of 10.398 million. That rate was 5.1% in July with 530,000 qualifying as unemployed.

State officials, repeatedly pointing to businesses struggling to find workers, in June reinstated a “work search” rule that requires people claiming unemployment benefits to apply for five jobs a week.

Gov. Ron DeSantis also suspended Florida’s participation in a federal program that offered $300 a week to unemployed people on top of the maximum $275 a week in state benefits.

The fact that “the unemployment rate is going up just means more people are looking forward jobs,” Parrish said, noting the rate “is not something to worry about” because, in the grand scheme of things, Florida is expecting 4 million new residents who will create the need to fill 2 million new jobs by 2030.

Florida Chamber’s Florida 2030 Blueprint offers metrics and plans for communities to meet those 2030 goals categorized by the Foundations Six Pillars of metrics:

  • Third grade reading scores for Florida and each county;
  • Poverty rate for each county;
  • Percentage of Floridians age 25 and older in each county with at least an Associates Degree;
  • Florida’s chance of a recession;
  • Florida’s Industry Diversification ranking.