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Nationwide unemployment rate drops, but people in SWFL still struggle to find work

While bars, restaurants, and other businesses begin to reopen, the possibility of going back to work for many increases.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report Friday that shows the nationwide unemployment rate for May is 13.3 percent, down from 14.7 percent in April. The U.S. added 2.5 million jobs in May. Economists estimated the number would be closer to 20% and about 8 million jobs lost.

For weeks, we’ve talked almost exclusively to people losing their jobs, who have been struggling to make ends meet.

“There are people that are hiring, but I can’t replace what I made before,” Kevin Shafer of Port Charlotte said. “And even unemployment is a lot less.”

“I know one restaurant that totally lost everything,” Christina Ohleyer of Naples said. “They can’t rebuild from what they’ve got, or what they’ve lost.”

We went on Facebook for feedback, and many commenters gave their opinions about the job market in our region, ranging from bad to good.

Since March, Lee and Collier counties saw the most unemployment claims filed in the accommodation, restaurant and retail industries, according to the state’s unemployment claims dashboard. National numbers show retail and food services employment grew — 368,000 added jobs in retail in May and 1.4 million added food service jobs in May.

President Donald Trump says those numbers signal the economic recovery he predicted.

“We had the greatest economy in the history of this country,” Trump said in a press conference Friday. “We had the greatest economy in the history of the world and that strength allowed us to get through this horrible pandemic, largely through.”

But accommodation jobs, such as lodging, continued to fall — down by 148,000 in May.

“I’m hoping that things move forward quickly because I like to be working and productive,” Corinne Casazza said.

While employment grew overall, May’s 13.3% unemployment rate is still higher than any point during the great recession.

Of course, back then, we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic.

The labor department also has an “underemployment” rate or U-6, and that now stands at 21%. That’s one out of every five workers who are out of work, working part time because that’s what’s available, or they just gave up.


For ongoing updates and information on unemployment, follow WINK News Investigative Reporter Sara Girard on Twitter and Facebook.

She also updates the WINK News FAQ: Unemployment Resources page as information is received.

Reporter:Sara Girard
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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