State moves toward regaining jobs

As Florida posted its fourth consecutive week of slowing unemployment claims, Department of Economic Opportunity Secretary Dane Eagle said Thursday the state is “a few months” away from regaining the number of jobs lost in the initial hit of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Unfortunately, we did lose jobs,” Eagle said while opening the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors meeting at Mission San Luis in Tallahassee. “People were shut down. They couldn’t go to work for no fault of their own. But we have been working day in and day out to regain those, and we should be there within the next few months, a total 100 percent recuperation of those jobs.”

Unemployment figures released last month showed the state had regained 92.1 percent of the 1.27 million jobs lost in the early stages of the pandemic from February 2020 through April 2020. The recapture rate stood at 91.2 percent in November and 86.6 percent in October.

Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez told the Enterprise Florida board that “while other states are experiencing economic downturns, what we’ve seen here in Florida is tremendous growth and opportunity.”

“As we have kept our businesses open, that decision has had ripple effects throughout our great state,” Nuñez said.

Before the meeting, the U.S. Department of Labor estimated 5,549 initial jobless claims were filed in Florida last week, down from a revised count of 6,680 for the week ending Jan. 29.

The drop came as jobless claims nationwide dipped to 223,000 last week, despite rising inflation and lingering effects of the COVID 19 omicron variant. The national figure, which has ticked down the past three weeks, has averaged 253,250 new claims during the past four weeks.

Last week, the Labor Department reported the nation added 467,000 jobs in January, led by jobs in leisure and hospitality fields. An increase in labor participation helped lead to an increase in the national unemployment rate from 3.9 percent to 4 percent.

Florida’s unemployment rate in December stood at 4.4 percent, representing an estimated 466,000 Floridians qualifying as jobless from a workforce now at 10.66 million. A January report will be released March 14.

Since mid-May, when efforts were ramped up by Florida leaders to push people back into the workforce during the pandemic, the state has averaged 7,230 claims a week.

During the first four weeks of 2020, Florida averaged 5,694 new claims a week. 

The weekly average dipped to 5,399 over the next seven weeks, before businesses in mid-March 2020 closed or scaled back because of the pandemic.