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Credit: MGN

Florida unemployment rate triples in April to nearly 13%

Florida’s unemployment rate reached a record high in April of almost 13%, tripling in one month as the economic slowdown from the coronavirus pandemic took hold, as some of the state’s largest employers such as Walt Disney World and Universal Studios shed workers, data released Friday shows.

Florida’s unemployment rate skyrocketed to 12.9% in April from 4.3% in March and from 2.8% in February, before the pandemic caused a state and nationwide closure of many businesses. About 1.3 million Floridians had lost their jobs out of a workforce of 10 million when this survey for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics was conducted in mid-April, a number that has continued to climb into May.

In Southwest Florida, here’s a county-by-county unemployment break down:

  • Charlotte: 15.6%
  • Lee: 14.6%
  • Collier: 13.4%
  • Hendry: 10.5%
  • Glades: 7.2%

The national unemployment rate reached 14.7% in April, up from 3.5% in February, reaching levels not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Florida’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism, an industry that has collapsed in two months as people are forced to stay close to home because of the virus.

The state’s theme parks closed in March, but some are making small steps toward reopening. Disney World reopened a shopping area this week and Universal reopened an entertainment area last week. SeaWorld expects to reopen next month. Florida’s theme parks are an $86 billion industry whose guests flood into hotels and restaurants, primarily in the Orlando area.

The cruise industry, an economic driver in numerous coastal cities, has also been shuttered and agriculture has suffered as institutional buyers such as restaurants, hotels and schools have been closed or severely restricted.

The state has had nearly 49,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases since March 1 and 2,144 deaths, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to speak later Friday in Jacksonville.

Author: TERRY SPENCER / AP
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