June unemployment rate shows improvement, but future is up in the air

Florida’s unemployment rate for June dropped to 10.4%. But those gains might be short lived, as parts of the state closed yet again. We spoke to a man in Southwest Florida who is riding this unemployment rollercoaster.

Musician Scott McDonald is out of work — again.

He initially stopped performing at the Cielo, a restaurant on Sanibel Island, in late March, all the while trying to get unemployment benefits.

“I probably put in 100 hours of trying to be on the telephone and also on the website trying to get it,” McDonald said.

The restaurant brought him back in May. But, with coronavirus cases now rising, they recently went to take-out only.

“I totally get that they want to shut down voluntarily,” McDonald said. “And it took a lot of nerve to do that because they’re losing income as well.”

According to the latest report, the state says the leisure and hospitality sector gained the most jobs from May to June. The Cape Coral-Fort Myers metro area also saw the fastest rate of growth.

June’s 10.4% unemployment rate is down from the revised rate for May, which was 13.7%.

“There was a little bit of confusion on, if somebody was employed but they were furloughed, how they should be counted on survey,” Adrienne Johnston, chief of the Bureau of Labor Market Statistics for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, said in a teleconference Friday.

That confusion over who should be counted as unemployed has led to monthly revisions of those numbers.

However, U.S. Department of Labor said it’s constantly improving the method.

“Underestimates have gotten a little bit better each month, so they know in June it was much better,” Johnston said.

But that means June’s rate could still be revised.

The June rate doesn’t reflect recent measures taken against bars or rollbacks for certain businesses in Miami-Dade County. It also doesn’t count reopening theme parks. Johnston says the impact of those changes will be reflected in July’s unemployment rate, to be released in August 21.

“It is still too early to tell exactly how long it’s going to last and what those long-term impacts are going to be on the labor market,” Johnston said.

With cases rising in Florida, predictions for July and beyond are still up in the air.

“I think safety should be first because, if everybody is sick or dying, there’s not gonna be anybody to go back to work,” McDonald said.

MORE: DEO – Florida’s June Employment Figures Released

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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