Unemployment rates in Charlotte, Sarasota and DeSoto counties all fell in February – a sign that the area has recovered from the economic turmoil of the coronavirus pandemic that left thousands of people unemployed nearly a year ago.
The construction industry in southwest Florida remains hot, with new jobs entering the area every month.
“People are moving from New York and New Jersey,” said Janeth Castrejon, spokeswoman for CareerSource Southwest Florida. “The houses cannot be built fast enough to meet demand.”
Charlotte County’s unemployment rate was 4.1% in February, a slight decrease from 4.3% in January. That is based on data released Friday by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. As early as May 2020, the DEO reported the unemployment rate in Charlotte County at 13.5%.
Sarasota County reported an unemployment rate of 3.7% in February – a few percentage points lower than January’s 4.1% unemployment rate.
Despite the growth in construction jobs, the Punta Gorda metro statistical area lost 2,100 non-agricultural jobs in the past year, according to DEO data.
In February there were 49,200 non-agricultural jobs in the Punta Gorda Metro, a decrease of 4.1% from the previous year.
According to Castrejon, the majority of these lost jobs are in the leisure and hospitality industries.
“It will likely take another year and a half for leisure and hospitality to recover from the virus,” Castrejon said. “There is no instant recovery for this industry.”
The unemployment rate in DeSoto County was 2.8% in February – at 3.5% even lower than in February 2020.
It is currently a job seeker market in southwest Florida. There are more jobs than people looking for work.