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New data shows Florida economy continues to improve

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — There’s still work to do. New numbers released Monday showed Florida’s economy has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels but is making strides.

In a data update, the Department of Economic Opportunity said Florida unemployment dropped 0.3 percentage points from December to January, landing at 4.8%.

That figure is better than the national average of 6.3% and a big fall from the state’s peak of 14.2 percent in May.

Florida gained 1,700 private-sector jobs, according to the report.

The top industries include:

Trade, Transportation and Utilities with 4,400 new jobs
Construction with 3,500 new jobs
Education and Health Services with 3,200 new jobs
Other services with 1,700 new jobs

The state’s tourism workers continued to suffer. The leisure and hospitality industry lost about 9,800 positions. Economists attributed most of this to recent layoffs at Florida theme parks.

Experts estimate Florida still has about 140,000 more unemployed when compared to January 2020. Overall, though, analysts believed the numbers show Florida is recovering.

“Jobs are continuing to be added to our economy and people are going back to work,” said Adrienne Johnston, the Department of Economic Opportunity’s chief economist. “We are seeing people go back into employment status. We’re actually seeing a reduction in unemployed, so job growth is connecting people back into the labor market and people are getting jobs.”

In a statement, DEO Director Dane Eagle, a former Republican lawmaker, attributed much of the success to Florida’s governor.

“Florida’s economy remains resilient under Governor DeSantis’ leadership as we continue to see sustained month-over-month job growth,” said Dane Eagle, the executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. “Governor DeSantis has kept our state open for business, and I am proud of the work we have done to ensure Floridians continue to return to the workforce.”

DeSantis’ critics accuse him of putting the economy before the health and safety of the state. To date, Florida has had more than 32,000 coronavirus-related deaths and 1.98 million cases.

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