Florida’s unemployment rate skyrockets to 12.9% in April

coronavirus data
1 million Florida jobs vanished in April. Central Florida was hardest hit.

Florida’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate soared to 12.9% in April as more than 1 million jobs vanished in the coronavirus disaster.

The crisis, which began in mid-March, blew away 40% of all Florida jobs in the hospitality industry, hitting Central Florida and the Florida Keys like an economic Category 5 hurricane, according to the new report from the Florida Department of Economic Development.

Greater Miami and Tampa Bay also were hit hard.

In February, Florida’s economy was riding high and the statewide unemployment rate was just 2.8%. Across the state, nearly all metro areas and counties were enjoying low employment rates, with jobless rates of 4% or less.

The winds of disaster began arriving in March, and the state’s jobless rate rose to 4.3%.

Now all of Florida has been hit hard; 43 of the state’s 67 counties are suffering jobless rates of 10% or worse.

Through Wednesday, the Department of Economic Opportunity had logged more than 2 million unemployment claims in the coronavirus crisis and paid benefits to nearly 1 million. The U.S. Department of Labor had seen more than 2.1 million Floridians file for unemployment through last Saturday, since mid-March.

This all comes as Gov. Ron DeSantis strives to get the state’s unemployment compensation system to work as it should, and battles with critics who contend it’s horribly broken.

The 12.9% unemployment rate for April includes seasonal adjustments that account for the predictable rise and fall of jobs based on Florida’s tourism-driven economy. That figure is up 8.5 points from the revised March rate of 4.4%, and up 9.6 points from a year ago.

Florida’s unadjusted unemployment rate, which reflects people actually out of work, is 13.3%. That calculation allows for deeper looks and comparisons, including with a national rate of 14.4% for the United States, according to U.S. Department of Labor numbers provided by the Department of Economic Development.

DEO is reporting that 1.2 million Floridians were out of work in April, in a labor force of 9.4 million workers.

The state lost 1,066,100 jobs in April.

Hardest hit was the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford metropolitan area, which lost 181,000 jobs in April. The Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall metropolitan area lost 145,900 jobs, and the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area lost 129,300 jobs.

In Osceola County, which teems with hospitality workers employed at Central Florida’s theme parks, hotels, attractions, restaurants, and tourism-support businesses, the unadjusted unemployment rate skyrocketed to 20.3% in April. That is up from 4.6% in March. That means one of every five workers in Osceola are out of work.

Monroe County, the Florida Keys, had the state’s next-worst unemployment rate at 17.5%, up from just 2.8% a month earlier.

In Orange County, which has, for several years running, been among the state’s leaders in jobs creation, more than 143,000 jobs vanished in April.

Orange County’s unadjusted unemployment rate skyrocketed to 16.5%. That is quadruple the jobless rate recorded there for March, and six times the unemployment rate seen a year ago, in April 2019.


— In Sarasota County, the unadjusted unemployment rate hit 14.8% in April, up from 4.2% the previous month.

— In Broward County, the unadjusted unemployment rate in April was 14.5%, up from 4.2% in March.

— Palm Beach County’s unadjusted unemployment rate reached 13.9% in April, up from 4.4% the previous month.

— Pinellas County’s unadjusted unemployment rate also reached 13.9% in April, up from 4.1% in March.

— Collier County’s unadjusted unemployment rate reached 13.4% in April, rising from 4.0% in March.

— Hillsborough County’s unadjusted unemployment rate was 12.0% in April, compared with 4.2% in March.

— Miami-Dade County’s unadjusted unemployment rate was 11.9% in April, rising from 3.8% the previous month.

— Duval County’s unadjusted unemployment rate was 11.3% in April, an increase from 4.1% in March.

— Alachua County’s unadjusted unemployment rate hit 9% in April, up from 3.8% the previous month.

— Leon County’s rate unadjusted unemployment rate was a relatively healthy 8.2% in April, though that’s twice what it was in March.

According to the Department of Economic Opportunity, more than half of all the jobs that disappeared in April were in the leisure and hospitality industry, in which 520,200 jobs vanished, about 40% of that industry’s total.

The trade, transportation and utilities industry lost 145,100 jobs, professional and business services lost 117,400 jobs, education and health services lost 90,600 jobs, manufacturing lost 24,900 jobs, government lost 20,900 jobs, financial activities lost 17,100 jobs, information services lost 10,400 jobs, and construction lost 900 jobs. Another 61,700 jobs disappeared in “other services.”

Lafayette County had the state’s lowest unemployment rate in April, at 5.5%.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


  • Harvey

    May 22, 2020 at 1:21 pm

    The state offers a maximum of $275 a week — based on your earnings — for up to 12 weeks. An additional week is added for every 0.5 percent increase in the state unemployment rate above 5 percent. The maximum is 23 weeks when the unemployment rate gets above 10.5 percent. The unemployment rate was 2.8 percent in February.

    When will this be reflected by DEO?

  • Salvador Telo

    May 22, 2020 at 1:48 pm

    Today after 4 days and 467 calls I was able to speak to three different DEO telephone numbers . I asked about the federal benefits ($600) that they owe me and I got the same answer -there are federal money and they don’t know anything about that,they only have info about the state ones.. Does anybody in this state know about this? May be the governor?

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