Florida’s tourism-reliant economy saw its unemployment rate go up to 14.5 percent in May, even while businesses started reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The state Department of Economic Opportunity on Friday announced the 14.5 percent rate, which represents an estimated 1.412 million Floridians out of work from a labor force of nearly 9.71 million.
The department also revised upward the April unemployment rate to 13.8 percent. It had been earlier estimated at 12.9 percent.
The May numbers included jobless rates of 31.1 percent in Osceola County and 23.2 percent in Orange County, as the Central Florida communities rely heavily on the tourism and hospitality industries.
Despite the increase in the state unemployment rate, Adrienne Johnston, bureau chief of workforce statistics and economic research at the Department of Economic Opportunity, pointed to signs people are returning to the workforce after Gov. Ron DeSantis started reopening efforts in early May.
The state recorded monthly upticks in workers in a number of fields, including construction, accommodations, food service, hair salons, dry cleaning and health care. Declines remained in publishing, broadcasting, telephone communications, financial activities and government.
Overall, the number of private jobs in the state was down 834,900 from May 2019.
After businesses shut down or dramatically scaled back in late March and April, DeSantis began the first phase of reopening plans on May 4, including allowing restaurants and retail stores to serve limited numbers of customers. DeSantis started the second phase on June 5, which included allowing bars and movie theaters to open in most of the state.
The U.S. unemployment rate fell from 14.7 in April to 13.3 percent May, as Northern hot spots for the virus saw cases slow and as 2.5 million jobs were added nationally.
The pandemic and double-digit unemployment rates come in an election year. The Florida Democratic Party on Friday issued a news release that blamed President Donald Trump for Florida having its highest jobless rate in four decades.
Since mid-March, the state unemployment system has drawn 2.57 million claims, with nearly half coming in April, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, which estimated a peak of 505,000 claims during the week that ended April 19.
The federal agency estimated 86,298 new first-time claims in Florida last week.
The state’s tourism and hospitality industries, from restaurants and resorts to theme parks and cruise ships, are expected to see a lag as people try to become more comfortable interacting in social settings under new health requirements.