Pinellas County not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was down to 5% in December, according to the report released March 15 by the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity.

Pinellas reported a rate of 5.2% in November and 2.5% in December 2019.

The labor force grew to 488,857 compared to 487,717 in November, but it was lower than the 497,735 in December a year ago.

Fewer were reportedly unemployed, 24,290. In November, DEO reported that 25,349 were looking for a job in Pinellas. Only 12,526 were in need of a job in December 2019.

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties, reported an unemployment rate of 5.2%, down from 5.5% in November and up from 2.7% in December 2019. The rate is a great improvement compared to the 13.9% reported in April 2020, which was the highest rate reported during the pandemic.

The county and the local MSA had lower rates than Florida and the United States. The state reported a not seasonally adjusted rate of 5.8%, down from 6.2% in November and up from 2.5% in December last year.

The United States’ rate was 6.5%, which was an increase from 6.4% in November and 3.4% reported in December 2019.

Leisure and hospitality continues to be the industry with the most job losses with DEO reporting a decrease of 26,000 over the year. In all the metro area’s private sector employment has decreased by 39,300 jobs, which is down 3.2% over the year.

Three industries are making a comeback with over the year job gains as of January, including professional and business services with 2,300 more jobs, financial activities with 1,700 new jobs and construction with an increase of 1,000 jobs.

Job growth is important to the state’s recovery. According to the DEO, from February-April 2020, the state lost nearly 1.18 million jobs, and has now gained back more than half of them, 718,700. In December, Florida had just over 8.6 million jobs, which was down 419,200 from the year before.

Pinellas isn’t the only location where leisure and hospitality took a big hit. That industry lost the most jobs over the year statewide with DEO reporting a loss of 197,000 jobs or 15.5%.

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater MSA tied with Port St. Lucie and Sebastian-Vero Beach for the rank of No. 12 among the state’s 24 metro areas. Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall Metropolitan Division ranked No. 1 with an unemployment rate of 7.3%. Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin MSA ranked No. 24 with a rate of 4.2%.

Pinellas has the lowest unemployment rate of the other counties in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater MSA and tied with Bay, Charlotte, Jefferson and Washington for the No. 34 rank among the state’s 67 counties.

Pasco tied with Hardee, Indian River, Leon and Seminole counties for the rank of No. 27 with an unemployment rate of 5.2%. Hillsborough tied with Columbia, Duval and Jackson counties for the rank of No. 23 with an unemployment rate of 5.3%. Hernando tied with Madison and Sumter counties for the rank of No. 14 with a rate of 5.9%, the highest in the local MSA.

Osceola County ranked No. 1 with an unemployment rate of 8.7%, the highest in the state. St. Johns and Wakulla counties tied for the No. 66 rank with a rate of 3.6%, the lowest in the state.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.