Pinellas County’s unemployment rate drops to 4%; fewer than 20,000 unemployed

The national and state unemployment rates keep on falling as businesses continue a slow recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and begin hiring again.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity continues to report good news as the state slowly recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and unemployment rates keep on falling.

In Pinellas County, the not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for February was down to 4%, which was a decrease from the 4.3% reported in January, but still an increase up from the 3.1% reported by the state in February 2020.

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is includes Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties, also trended downward going from an unemployment rate of 4.5% in January to 4.2% in February, which was up from 3.2% reported in the same month last year. The numbers represent a marked improvement from the 13.9% reported in April 2020 of 13.9% — the highest rate recorded during the pandemic.

The state’s unemployment rate was down to 5% compared to 5.3% last month, but still appreciably higher than the 3.1% reported in February 2020. The rate for the United States was 6.6%, a decrease from 6.8% in January but still higher than February last year with an unemployment rate of 3.8%.

The unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted. The DEO’s report does not provide seasonally adjusted rates for counties or MSAs.

Seasonal adjustment is a statistical technique that attempts to measure and remove the effects of seasonal patterns to show how employment and unemployment change from month to month. Levels of employment and unemployment, as well as the size of the labor force, change due to seasonal events, such as weather, harvests, major holidays and school schedules. Not-seasonally-adjusted data is typically offered for smaller geographies.

Perhaps the most promising news is the number of unemployed. More than 1,000 fewer Pinellas County residents were looking for a job in February with 19,884 reportedly unemployed compared to 20,981 in January. In February 2020, only 15,535 were in need of a job.

The county’s labor force increased in February, going to 492,611 compared to 486,094 in January, but it was still less than the 496,084 reported in February 2020, the last month before the first cases of COVID-19 were reported last year.

The leisure and hospitality industry continues to have the most job losses over the year with a decrease of 27,700 jobs in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater MSA. The private sector employment was down overall by 37,400 jobs or 3%.

DEO said three major industries had gained jobs over the year, including financial activities with 2,300 new jobs; professional and business services, increasing by 2,300 jobs; and construction, increasing by 400 jobs.

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater MSA tied with Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville MSA for the rank of No. 13 among the state’s 24 metro areas. Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall Metropolitan Division ranked No. 1 with the highest unemployment rate of 7.9%. Crestview-Fort Walton beach-Destin MSA ranked No. 24 with the lowest rate, 3.1%.

Pinellas tied with Columbia and Escambia counties for the rank of No. 30 out of the state’s 67 counties. Of the other counties in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater MSA, Pasco and Hillsborough tied with Brevard and Duval counties for the rank of N. 23 with an unemployment rate of 4.2%. Hernando County, which traditionally has the highest unemployment rate in the local MSA, ranked No. 12 with a rate of 4.9%.

Osceola County ranked No. 1 with an unemployment rate of 8.8% and Wakulla County ranked No. 67 with a rate of 2.6%.

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