By Katabella Roberts
Florida has reported 18 consecutive months of private-sector job growth, the office of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Friday.
The sunshine state continues to make economic progress, with more job growth, labor force increases, and a decline in the unemployment rate, owing in part to its “successful policies that put Floridians and businesses first,” the governor said.
As per a press release, Florida achieved 18 consecutive months of private-sector job growth as of October 2021, adding 44,300 jobs over the month. Overall, the job growth rate has increased 5.7 percent in the state this year.
In total, Florida has gained 1,111,000 private-sector jobs since April 2020, representing 89 percent of jobs lost during the pandemic that have been recovered.
The private-sector industries that gained the most jobs over the month were leisure and hospitality, which gained 16,600 new jobs; trade, transportation, and utilities which gained 10,400 new jobs; and education and health services which saw 6,600 new jobs gains. Professional and business services and other services also gained new employees in the thousands.
The state has also experienced 12 consecutive months of labor force increases with a growth of 29,000 over the month, which represents a 5.8 percent increase over the year. That figure is significantly higher than the national rate of 0.5 percent, a slower rate than in recent decades, DeSantis’ office said.
Meanwhile, the state’s unemployment rate, currently at 4.6 percent, also decreased by 0.2 percentage points from the revised September 2021 rate of 4.8 percent, and down 1.2 percentage points from a year ago.
More than 518,000 jobs have currently been posted online, DeSantis said, adding that he anticipated that there will be many more job opportunities available for Floridians throughout the state in the future.
“Florida’s economy continues to grow faster than the nation because we put the needs of Floridians and businesses first and make smart policy decisions that push back against heavy-handed mandates,” said Governor DeSantis. “With 18 consecutive months of job growth and 12 consecutive months of labor force increases, we will continue to make investments that move our economy forward.”
Since mid-May, DeSantis has pushed to get Floridians back into the labor force. The governor—along with Republican governors in some two dozen states—opted for an early end to the $300 federal pandemic unemployment supplement that he blamed for sidelining workers.
In that same month, Florida reinstated its “work search” requirement (pdf) which meant that unemployed Floridians would need to contact five employers a week to remain eligible for unemployment benefits.
The latest figures come shortly after DeSantis, who has openly opposed federal COVID-19 virus vaccine mandates in Florida, signed four bills that will diminish the impact of such mandates. The bills were passed through a Special Session of the Florida Legislature.
Specifically, the legislation is designed to “protect Floridians from losing their jobs due to COVID-19 vaccine mandates and protect parents’ rights to make healthcare decisions for students,” according to a press release from the Florida Department of Health.
Under one of the new laws, Florida businesses that mandate COVID-19 vaccines will be required to offer exemptions for medical and religious reasons as well as to pregnant women and people who have acquired natural immunity to the virus. Employers will be further required to offer workers exemptions based on regular testing and wearing employer-provided protective equipment.
Other provisions in the new law serve to protect workers ousted over vaccine mandates. The law also prohibits school districts and officials from requiring students to wear masks.
Businesses that flout the requirement face fines ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 per incident.
“Nobody should lose their job due to heavy-handed COVID mandates and we had a responsibility to protect the livelihoods of the people of Florida. I’m thankful to the Florida Legislature for joining me in standing up for freedom,” DeSantis said at the signing ceremony.
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