Flagler County unemployment rate drops to record low of 2.6%
Flagler County’s unemployment rate in April fell to 2.6%, the lowest level ever recorded in Florida Department of Economic Opportunity figures dating back to 1990. The county’s labor force and the number of people employed employment are also at record highs.
The county’s unemployment rate fell from 13.7% two years ago and from 3.9% at the start of the year. Before the pandemic, Flagler’s unemployment had hit a low of 3.4% in December 2019 and 3.2% in February 2020, the month the Covid virus began to spread rapidly in the country. In the two previous recorded booms, Flagler’s unemployment rate had fallen to a low of 3.6% in December 2005, at the height of the housing boom, before beginning to rise the following year. During the boom of the late 1990s, the county’s unemployment rate hit 2.7% in September 1999 (when 486 people were unemployed), the lowest rate on record so far.
April’s lower rate was achieved despite a slight increase in the labor force, which also broke a new record. Flagler’s workforce is now 49,199, beating the previous record, set last October, of 49,000. The labor force indicates several economic factors – the willingness of people who had dropped out of the labor force to join it, the attractiveness of the county to people of working age and the continued increase in the county’s population. Although the increase in population has been undeniable in recent years, it has been heavily skewed in favor of older retirees.
Thus, between school-aged children and retirees in the county, the labor force represents only about 40% of the total population. But it is larger by some 1,300 workers, compared to a year ago.
The number of unemployed residents in Flagler fell to 1,278 in April, down 70 from the previous month and more than 1,000 from a year ago. County-level figures from the Department of Economic Opportunity are not seasonally adjusted. A total of 47,921 people were employed in April, also a record. Job holders do not necessarily work at Flagler. The figure represents Flagler County residents who are employed, whether employment is in the county, surrounding counties, or telecommuting work. The figure does not distinguish between full-time and part-time work. A person is registered as employed when he registers an hour of work in the period surveyed.
A decade ago, Flagler struggled month after month with the grim distinction of having the highest unemployment rate in the state. Today, despite the strong showing, he’s still only in 17th place on Putnam’s 3.6% unemployment rate. Only nine counties have unemployment rates of 3% or higher, and seven have unemployment rates below 2%, including St. Johns, with 1.7%. Monroe has the lowest rate: 1.5%.
Florida’s unemployment rate fell to 3% in April, with 321,000 Floridians out of work and looking for work. The figure is somewhat misleading. The state has one of the most draconian unemployment systems, if participants apply for unemployment compensation. They must follow strict rules, prove that they are looking for a job or become ineligible for compensation. Those who are removed from the lists no longer count as unemployed, even if they are unemployed.
As such, the state’s official unemployment rate understates those who are underemployed or have dropped out of the labor force. The federal government’s Alternative Unemployment Rate represents these workers and puts Florida’s unemployment and underemployment rate at 7.6%. The country’s alternative rate is currently 8.4%.
Speaking in West Palm Beach today, Governor Ron DeSantis took credit for the state’s healthy economy and said the state’s reserves stood at $20 billion. dollars, not to mention the help from the federal government. The claim, however, is slightly misleading, reflecting a game of accounting shells, as this aid was used in various parts of the budget in place of state dollars, allowing those dollars to be counted as reserves. The governor spoke today from a Retro Fitness gym in West Palm Beach. A Governor’s press release states, “Retro Fitness has relocated to West Palm Beach from New York and New Jersey in order to continue operating and opening gyms in the face of unprecedented lockdowns during the pandemic.”
In fact, Retro Fitness continues to operate numerous locations in New York and New Jersey, and is only expanding south. Last year, it moved its headquarters to West Palm Beach as a “strategic move for the brand in the midst of its 15th anniversary, prompted by Retro Fitness’ continued national growth and expansion,” according to a statement from the company at the time.
See the full unemployment report here.