Unemployment rates in Brevard County and nationally rose slightly in October, newly released data shows.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity report also notes that some southwest Florida counties that were 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 September 28.
In Brevard County, the unemployment rate rose to 2.6% in October from 2.5% in September, but declined from 3.3% in October 2021.
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Brevard County’s employed population fell to 293,445 in October from 296,019 in September. The number of unemployed Brevard residents rose to 7,854 in October from 7,605 in September.
The nationwide figures showed that the unemployment rate rose to 2.7% in October from 2.5% in September. In October 2021 it was 3.7%. The September rate of 2.5% was the lowest in Florida since October 2006.
Jimmy Heckman, office manager for labor statistics and economic research for the Department of Economic Opportunities, said Hurricane Ian was a factor in contributing to the rise in the statewide unemployment rate in October, as all southwest Florida coastal counties saw their unemployment rates rise.
Heckman noted during a news conference that October unemployment rates rose 1.3% in Lee County, 1.0% in Charlotte County, 0.3% in Collier County and 0.2% in Sarasota County.
Gov. Ron DeSantis downplayed the rise in Florida’s unemployment rate in a separate statement.
“Florida’s economic resilience is unmatched anywhere in the country,” said DeSantis. “No other state could withstand the direct impact of a Category 4 hurricane and add more jobs in the same month. We have made record investments in our infrastructure and workforce while maintaining a record budget surplus and providing Florida residents with a record tax break.”
Locally, nine of the top 10 employment sectors in Brevard County saw annual job growth 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, transport and supply (+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 industry lost jobs during the year. The number of jobs in the information industry remained unchanged over the course of the year.
Where Brevard ranks
Brevard County’s unemployment rate of 2.6% was the 16th lowest among Florida’s 67 counties. Brevard ranked fifth lowest among Florida’s 24 metropolitan areas.
In October, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties had the state’s lowest unemployment rates (1.7% each), followed by St. Johns County (2.1%) and Okaloosa County (2.2%).
Hendry County had the highest unemployment rate in the state (4.5%), followed by
Highlands County (4.3%); and Charlotte and Citrus counties (4.0% each).
Among metro areas, Miami/Miami Beach/Kendall had the lowest rate (1.7%) and Sebring had the highest rate (4.3%).
Nationwide in October there were 10,465,000 employed and 285,000 unemployed actively looking for work. The labor force increased by 18,000, or 0.2%, for the month and by 435,000, or 4.3%, for the year. The number of unemployed rose 19,000, or 7.1%, for the month but fell 101,000, or 26.2%, for the year.
Heckman said a growing percentage of unemployed people in Florida have either left their job voluntarily to find a better job, are re-entering the labor market, or are rejoining the labor market — rather than being fired. He said growth in these categories is a sign of “an active and healthy labor market”.
Total nonfarm payrolls 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 numbers to indicate the strength of the Florida job market:
- The state’s unemployment rate was 2.7%, below the national unemployment rate of 3.7%.
- Florida’s statewide unemployment rate has been lower than the national unemployment rate for 23 straight 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% for 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 employment growth rate of 4.0% for the year.
- As of October 2022, Florida employers have added jobs for 30 consecutive months since May 2020.
- Florida’s private sector employment growth rate for the year has exceeded that of the country for 19 straight months since April 2021.
- All nine major private sectors in Florida have recovered to pre-COVID-19 February 2020 levels.
Hurricane Ian is having an impact
Discussing the Southwest Florida data, Heckman said that Charlotte, Collier, Lee and Sarasota counties have historically seen a seasonal drop in unemployment in October as the tourist season begins there. But Hurricane Ian was likely the driving factor behind the rise in the unemployment rate there.
In October, the number of jobless rose by 4,951 in Lee County, 820 in Charlotte County, 591 in Collier County, 473 in Sarasota County — 6,835 total across four counties.
Heckman said the time it will take for employment to be restored in this area is difficult to predict.
“With Hurricane Charley hitting the same area in 2004, we’re seeing a recovery where employment numbers returned to pre-hurricane levels within a few months,” Heckman said.
“We also have examples like Hurricane Michael, which hit Panama City (metropolitan area) and surrounding areas where that recovery took much longer,” Heckman said. “I think even into 2022 we still saw some sectors below their pre-hurricane Michael employment levels.” Hurricane Michael hit in October 2018.
Separate data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that Florida employers’ difficulties in filling available positions may be 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 65,000 fewer than September 2021.
It turned out that there were 424,000 new hires in September, 17,000 more than in August and 15,000 fewer than in 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 versus 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 versus 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 versus 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 versus 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 versus 2.1% in September. West Melbourne data was not collected separately in 2020.
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