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Florida’s hospitality industry lost 4,300 jobs in August

File photo
File photo (Capitol News Service)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida’s unemployment rate dropped by a tenth of a percent in August, down to 5 percent.

The state added to its total number of jobs, but one of the state’s most important industries lost jobs for the first time since the state began its economic recovery from pandemic lockdowns.

Florida added 15,500 jobs overall and 65,000 Floridians rejoined the labor force in August.

“We continue to see people encouraged to come back into the labor market,” said Adrienne Johnston, chief economist for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

Job growth in August fell short of the more than 68,000 jobs added the previous month, but state economists are still optimistic about the economic recovery.

“We’ve had several months of continued growth in both payroll employment and in labor force growth,” said Johnston.

The jobs Florida added in August account for about 6.6 percent of the jobs added nationwide, about on par with the state’s share of the U.S. population.

It wasn’t all good news in the August report.

The leisure and hospitality sector, one of the state’s most important economic drivers, took a step in the wrong direction and lost 4,300 jobs. The industry had been on a steady path to recovery since the state reopened last summer.

“That number certainly was disappointing. We are just starting to dig into what the underlying causes may be,” said Geoff Luebkemann, Vice President of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

Luebkemann said there is anecdotal evidence the Delta wave played a role.

“We’ve heard some people express a reluctance to come into a crowded setting,” said Luebkemann.

According to Luebkemann, the delta variant of the coronavirus didn’t slow demand, but it did make it more difficult to hire and retain employees.

“Throughout the summer, we did see that improve somewhat, but now it’s definitely retracted a little bit as reflected in this latest jobs number,” said  Luebkemann. “Most of our operations are understaffed. Nothing is more discouraging to a hospitality person than to have a line at the front door and a half-empty dining room and tell people you have to wait.”

The Restaurant and Lodging Association is hopeful the job losses in August will be short-lived, so long as cases continue their downward trend.