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ADOBE STOCK IMAGE TURNING THINGS AROUND — Unemployment rates have continued a steady decline in Florida, and the labor force continues to grow. Even as the COVID-19 pandemic persists, more and more sectors are returning to their pre-pandemic levels of employment.

Despite increased concerns about layoffs and a looming recession, Florida’s unemployment rate dipped in June.

The state Department of Economic Opportunity released a report that said the June rate was 2.8 percent, down from a revised 2.9 percent in May. The June number represented 303,000 Floridians unemployed in a workforce of 10.633 million.

The June rate was a decrease from 4.8 percent in June 2021, when 499,000 people were out of work.

The report also said the state’s labor force was up by 40,000 people in the past month, an increase of 0.4 percent, while the national labor force shrank by 353,000 in the same time, a 0.2-percentage-point reduction.

The national unemployment rate has hovered around 3.6 percent since March, after it was 5.9 percent in June 2021.

While Florida’s unemployment rate has decreased, the weekly average of people filing first-time jobless claims jumped from 3,984 over four weeks in March to 6,813 during the past four weeks.

Florida’s 10 major employment sectors are up in jobs from last year, but the June report showed a monthly decline of 2,400 construction jobs, 2,200 government jobs and 600 information-technology jobs.

But state economists pointed to positives.

Jobs in the leisure and hospitality fields, which still have ground to recover after massive losses early in the COVID-19 pandemic, had the largest gain in June at 12,100 new jobs, followed by education and health services, which grew by 7,800 positions.

The state’s labor force was up 339,000 people from pre-pandemic levels, but has seen increases in people quitting jobs for 15 consecutive months.

Adrienne Johnston, chief economist for the Department of Economic Opportunity, said that people voluntarily exiting jobs indicates “individuals are more optimistic about their ability to find work if they leave their current job.”

“As the labor force expands, and the pool of people experiencing persistent unemployment shrinks, voluntary transitions will naturally tend to grow as a share of unemployment,” Johnston said.

Florida was one of 10 states to record unemployment rate declines in June and one of 20 with rates below the national mark, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Across Florida, the highest unemployment rate was in rural Hendry County at 5.3 percent, followed by Highlands County at 4.6 percent. The lowest rate was 1.9 percent in Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys. Miami-Dade County was next-lowest at 2.2 percent, and St. Johns County was at 2.3 percent.

Volusia County’s June 2022 unemployment rate landed in the middle at 3.2 percent. That’s down from the June 2021 unemployment rate of 5.2 percent.

The statewide rate is seasonally adjusted, while the county rates are not.

Beacon reporter Noah Hertz contributed to this report.

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