ORLANDO, Florida – As Florida state executives paint a bright picture of the job market, they also warn that there is a long way to go.
What would you like to know
- WD says jobs are coming back to the state
- The agency says the unemployment rate remains at 4.7%
- It comes as DeSantis government opposes increased unemployment benefits
Gov. Ron DeSantis is using additional job rotation to further reject efforts – by Republican and Democratic members of the Florida legislature – to increase state unemployment benefits.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunities reported on Friday that the state gained 32,900 private sector jobs in March 2021, totaling 777,600 private sector jobs from April 2020 to March 2021.
Adrienne Johnston, chief economist for Florida WD, said the numbers include both new jobs created and people recalled to work.
Florida DEO reported that the state’s latest unemployment rate remains stable at 4.7%, down from 14.3% in April 2020 when Florida was at the height of the pandemic.
“We are seeing continued job growth over the month,” Johnston said on Friday. “When you look back to where we were at the same time last year, where we have been gaining jobs for 11 months, we haven’t quite come back to where we were before the pandemic, where we were at. lowest levels of unemployment we’ve ever seen, highest level of employment we’ve ever seen, we’re just not quite there and that’s largely due to the fact that the he leisure and hospitality industry is not quite back where we were.
Tourism is a mainstay of the economy of central Florida where the Orlando area unemployment rate is 5.4%. Osceola County continues to have the highest unemployment rate in the state.
“What I take away, and what we see in the data, we continue to see job growth, so companies are adding jobs statewide, in all industries and it’s not coming back because we had a huge drop early last year, it will take time for that to increase and return to pre-pandemic levels, ”Johnston said.
As thousands of people remain without work, optimism emerges.
Central Florida businesses and restaurants are posting jobs, with some difficulty reporting staffing.
Some job seekers have expressed health and salary concerns for their slow return to the job market.
Others, however, are eager to get back to normal.
“I can tell you that in a month or two, Disney is going to have to start hiring externally, on the streets to fill these roles, because every week there is a need for more people to come back,” said Eric Clinton. .
Clinton is president of Unite Here 362, which represents 9,000 workers in the area, including members of the Disney cast (Disney term for employees) working in attractions, custody, vacation planning, and in the plaza. automobile.
Unite Here 362 and 737 are members of the Service Trades Council Union – a group of six collective unions representing more than 42,000 members of the Disney cast.
Clinton said of the 42,000 cast members, more than 32,000 have returned to work.
Those waiting to return, Clinton said, are mostly part-time employees or those who work at properties waiting to reopen.
“The parks are open and they are busy,” Clinton said. “The difference is, while the parks are busy… there are entire complexes, large campuses with thousands of hotel rooms that are not open. Connected to each of these hotels and room campuses are catering operations, entertainment offerings, gift shops, and housekeepers that weren’t brought back to work, so until the Hotel occupancy rate is increasing, this is really the next thing that we will see. , people who get rooms in these rooms and do so for multiple nights. “
Representatives for Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld have all ignored questions repeated in recent weeks from Spectrum News regarding staffing.
Improving job prospects come as many still struggle to find adequate work and struggle with the state’s broken unemployment system.
Neither WD executive Dane Eagle nor DeSantis pointed out at a press conference in Lakeland on Friday about the lingering problems plaguing the system. Many Floridians say they have been banned from their accounts and find mistaken blocks on their claims.
Some have not received benefits for months.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunities said it is aware of the issues and continues to work as quickly as possible to resolve the issues.
Fight to reform unemployment
In March, at the start of the 2021 legislative session, WD Executive Director Dane Eagle told Spectrum News his agency was understaffed, overworked and in need of legislative assistance to get the fixes right. realize.
“You have thousands of Floridians who have struggled to get into the system, into the CONNECT system,” said Chris Sprowles (right), the Speaker of the House in Florida. “We have a bill and a budgeting process, we worked with WD Director Eagle to make sure the CONNECT system redesign has enough bandwidth if you want to make sure we end up in again. this situation, if there are a large number of Floridians trying to continue, we have a system that supports that.
There is bipartisan pull to provide funding to address technical pitfalls in the system. There is also bipartite – but not majority – support for granting marginal increases in unemployment benefits.
Florida currently has some of the lowest unemployment benefits in the country: $ 275 per week, capped at 12 weeks.
As Democrats have gathered to ask for $ 500 a week for a new 26-week cap, a more modest proposal is gaining some support.
State Senator Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford) is proposing an increase from $ 100 to $ 375 per week for a new 14-week cap. Brodeur’s bill, SB 1906, passed through the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday and is now heading for a vote outside the plenary hall, where it recently won the support of Senate Majority Leader Debbie Mayfield (R-Melbourne).
DeSantis Friday, however, balked at growing benefits.
NEW: Governor Ron DeSantis says he is AGAINST increasing Florida unemployment benefits.
FL has among the lowest in the United States
($ 275 / week | max. 12 weeks)
Senator Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford) is claiming $ 375 / week for 14 weeks.
– Greg Angel (@NewsGuyGreg) April 16, 2021
Additionally, the Florida House of Representatives did not propose any accompanying bills to Brodeur’s Senate bill. Given the lack of support from DeSantis and the GOP-controlled House, Brodeur’s legislation faces a steep climb to become law.
DeSantis said he did not support the granting of additional benefits given the improving labor market in the state. State benefits are paid by the Florida Unemployment Trust Fund. Companies pay unemployment insurance taxes to fuel the fund, which is nearly depleted after the pandemic.
In an effort to replenish the fund, and Republicans say it avoids the burden of raising business taxes, lawmakers recently passed a long-standing Democratic proposal to expand online sales tax collection. .
Instead of using the funds for Democrat-focused programs and priorities, Republicans endorsed the move after the rejection, but instead to funnel the money to temporarily fund the unemployment trust fund.