Writer: Catie Schwartzman
2 min read March 2021 — January jobless data suggests a light at the end of the tunnel for Florida’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. According to state statistics as part of an annual benchmarking process released Monday, Florida’s unemployment rate for January was 4.8%, up just under a percent from December but lower than the national rate of 6.3%.
Compared to the rest of the country, Florida ranked 18th in terms of unemployment in January, with South Dakota and Utah leading the way at 3.1% each.
“The economy is definitely in recovery mode,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James Financial, to the Tampa Bay Times. “But we still have a very, very long way to go to get back to where we want to be in the labor market.”
The fine print, however, suggests a need for tempered optimism. University of Florida economist Christopher McCarty said that as the numbers do not account for those who have left the workforce indefinitely. Florida’s labor force participation rate was 57% in January 2021, 3% less year over year than in 2020. With leisure and hospitality losing the largest number of jobs this past year during the pandemic, followed by trade, transportation and utilities, Florida has felt the effects. Tampa Bay’s unemployment rate even rose from December 2020 by 1% to 4.6% in January, with Hillsborough County, Pinellas County and Pasco County all seeing increases.
That being said, the Tampa Bay area has statistically experienced job placement success in comparison to metros throughout the nation as COVID-19 ravaged the job market. Tampa Bay had the fifth-smallest year-over-year job loss for January 2020 to January 2021. Among the contributing factors to Tampa Bay’s resilience are multiple local relief funds from local government and private entities, including the Fighting Chance Fund and the One Tampa Relief Fund. These both went to support small local businesses, and were fortified by individual funds within each of the counties in the Tampa Bay area. Of course, another contributing factor was Florida’s lifting of statewide business restrictions since September.
As Tampa Bay local county governments continue to flourish with stimulus from the national government, so too will residents and businesses within the area. Hillsborough County, Pinellas County and Pasco County are all set to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in stimulus funds, while on the edge of the metropolitan area, Sarasota County, Manatee County and Hernando County will all receive tens of millions. The spokespeople for Pinellas and Hillsborough counties have yet to confirm how funds will be directed, but the National Conference of State Legislatures attests that among the variety of uses may be “direct aid to businesses and households or for investments in water or broadband infrastructure,” as put by the Tampa Bay Business Journal.
Tampa Bay is a leader both within Florida and nationally for its strategic plans for local businesses and citizens to push toward the end of the pandemic.
Photo Credit: Keir Magoulas | Visit Tampa Bay