Pensacola area unemployment rate drops to 7.4% in June as more than 5,000 go back to work
More than 5,000 Pensacola area residents went back to work during the month of June, pushing the local unemployment rate down to single digits at 7.4%, according to new data released Friday.
The Pensacola metro area's unemployment rate dropped almost three percentage points from May's 10.1% rate, according to new unemployment data released Friday by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
The local labor force also grew by about 4,500 people, which may be the most promising news, said Scott Luth, CEO of FloridaWest Development Alliance.
The labor force refers to the number of both employed and unemployed workers combined. Once someone is no longer looking for work, they are no longer included in the labor force.
"Obviously, for the last several months, three or four months, that number was trending down, so we were seeing people exit the workforce (and) they weren't even trying to look for work," Luth said.
Luth said people who were not looking for work in previous months were often doing so either because they were spending time applying for unemployment or there weren't any available jobs in industries like hospitality and leisure to go back to work.
The state's overall unemployment rate was 10.4% in June, down 3.3 percentage points from the May rate. Escambia County ranked 34th highest for unemployment in the state in June, while Santa Rosa County ranked at 58 out of Florida's 67 counties.
In April, while the state was under a safer-at-home order, unemployment topped 12% as 25,656 residents in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties were out of work. The number of residents in both counties still looking for work in June dropped to 15,962 people.
Luth said that means the area has almost "halfway" recovered, because the June 2020 unemployment rate is just over double the June 2019 unemployment rate of 3.4%. He called the new figures "very encouraging."
"People want to say, 'Are we back to normal?' Back to normal would be about 3.5% unemployment with 5,000 people unemployed," Luth said.
The unemployment data comes at a time when coronavirus cases across the state are spiking, with Escambia County adding almost 300 new cases Friday alone.
What effect the increased cases will have on July unemployment data remains to be seen, particularly taking into account the state's second round of bar closures and the federal unemployment benefit of $600 expiring at the end of the month.
"It'll be interesting to watch over the next couple of months to see if it does (affect unemployment) but from an unemployment perspective, obviously opening restaurants, opening up our condos, our short-term rentals, seeing obviously more people come back into our hotels has definitely had an impact on our unemployment rate," Luth said.
Adrienne Johnston, the Department of Economic Opportunity's chief of the Bureau of Labor Market Statistics, said during a Friday news conference that the June unemployment rate probably doesn't factor in the second round of bar closures, which started June 26.
"Our statistics are really based on the reference week of the 12th each month so you can always look to what was going on during that period to get the best sense of how the statistics are going to play out, so we would expect to see the impacts of that in the July report," Johnston said.
Johnston said the state likely wouldn't see the impact of an expiration of federal unemployment benefits until the August statistics, which come out in September.
"It is a little bit unclear on how exactly that would play out, and it will certainly depend on the state of the economy and reopening at that time," Johnston said.
Madison Arnold can be reached at email@example.com and 850-435-8522.