The Department of Economic Opportunity released January unemployment numbers, a sepia-tinged snapshot of a bygone time.
“Benchmarking,” according to the DEO release, involves looking at what is now clearly historical data.
The real question for policy makers will be unemployment in March and beyond, with coronavirus slowdowns impacting manufacturing, the service industry, and all sectors except health care.
But in January, numbers reflected the pre-COVID 19 economy, and for jobs numbers it couldn’t be beat.
Unemployment was still at a historic low of 2.8%.
“Florida’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 2.8% in January 2020, down 0.1 percentage point from the revised December 2019 rate, and down 0.6 percentage point from a year ago. Florida’s unemployment rate tied the record low of 2.8%. There were 291,000 jobless Floridians out of a labor force of 10,440,000. The U.S. unemployment rate was 3.6% in January,” the release notes.
The pre-coronavirus job market was strong in many sectors, with jobs being created over the preceding 12 months in most of them.
Construction’s 21,500 jobs were up nearly 4% year over year, with professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, financial services, and manufacturing all up 2% year over year in January.
It remains to be seen whether that trend will hold going forward.
Regional unemployment in January was low everywhere in the state, with all regions below the 6% threshold economists used to identify as full employment.
The strongest January job market in the state was Miami-Dade, with just a 1.5% unemployment rate. Other counties fared more poorly.
“Hendry County had the highest unemployment rate (5.1%) in Florida in January 2020, followed by Citrus County (4.9%), Hamilton County (4.7%) and Sumter County (4.6%),” the release contends.
However, 23 of 24 metro areas (all except Homosassa Springs) enjoyed year over year job gains headed into the January report — a remarkable postcard from a strong economy driven by easy money and consumer confidence that likely is on the wane now.
It remains to be seen though when the forecasting models will catch up to the disturbing trends roiling equity and commodities markets, however.
The state is expecting to have created 3% more jobs between 2019 and 2021, with a 7.1% increase in construction jobs driving what certainly was an optimistic forecast.
The 2019 to 2027 projections are even more buoyant. A 9% increase in jobs is expected during that period.
State economists were already noting a “winded” economy ahead of the COVID-19 conundrum. That may turn out to be an optimistic read.