Florida’s unemployment rate jumped to 11.3% for July as the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic slowed and businesses laid off more workers.

Some 1.125 million Floridians were out of work in a labor force of 9.975 million, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity said Friday.The jobless rate was 10.3% in June.

Among the highlights listed by the DEO in its monthly report:

  • Florida lost 1,178,100 jobs from February to April and has since recovered 572,200 jobs, or almost half of the jobs lost when the pandemic struck down the economy.
  • The number of jobs in Florida was 8,465,700 in July 2020, down 497,7000 jobs compared to a year ago. All 10 major industries lost jobs over the past year.
  • The industry losing the most jobs over the year was leisure and hospitality (‐254,400 jobs, ‐20.3 percent)

Though allowed to reopen, hospitality and leisure businesses are still operating at partial capacities to prevent community spread of the virus. And many people who typically patronize them over the summer are staying home. This meant the businesses recalled only fractions of the workforces they had furloughed.

Free-standing bars remain closed as the state imposed a ban on alcohol consumption in public places. Restaurants, however, are allowed to serve drinks to patrons with their meals.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the nation’s economy added 9.3 million jobs between May and July. The latest U.S. unemployment rate — recorded in July — was down to 10.2%.

But millions more jobs lost during the COVID-19 pandemic since March have yet to be restored.

New unemployment claims continue to be a problem for an economy that still encounters drastically reduced demand for consumer services, especially for travel, retail goods from brick-and-mortar stores and entertainment.

Nationally, new weekly claims rose by more than 1 million again for the week ended Aug. 15, and in Florida, rose by more than 4,000 to 66,322.

Job replacement a priority

Replacing lost jobs is a top objective among economic development leaders in South Florida. On Thursday, Kelly Smallridge, president and CEO of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, said she promoted local unemployed workers in a pitch to online retail giant Amazon, which has agreed to build a million-square-foot fulfillment center at the Palm Beach Park of Commerce in the northwest portion of the county.

In an interview, she said that despite recent improvements in the local job market, she is dissatisfied with the county’s current jobless rate, and would like to see it reduced to 5% within the next year.