Palm Beach County April Unemployment Rises to Record 13.9 Percent, Reflecting Unprecedented COVID-19 Impact

West Palm Beach, Fla. (May 22, 2020) – Palm Beach County’s unemployment rate reached a record high of 13.9 percent in April, reflecting the harsh employment impact of the COVID-19 crisis, according to the latest monthly reports released today by CareerSource Palm Beach County and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (all numbers not seasonally adjusted).

The county’s year-ago rate for April was 3.0 percent and was 4.4 percent in March. The only bright spot – the county’s rate remained below the 14.4 percent national rate, continuing a more than 3-year streak in which the county’s rate has stayed below or matched the national rate. Florida’s rate is 13.3 percent.  Outside of the Great Depression, the county’s previous highest unemployment rate reached nearly 12 percent during the so-called Great Recession in summer 2010. The county’s record low unemployment rate -- 2.7 percent – is a very distant memory although it occurred just four months earlier.

Other measures of the COVID-19 impact to employment in the county:

  • Most job losses in the county occurred in the Leisure/Hospitality, Professional/Business Services and Trade/Transportation/Utilities industry sectors. Only one sector – Financial Activities – gained jobs, 300 over the year.
  • Job orders at CareerSource Palm Beach County dropped by more than 70 percent in April compared to January.
  • Today’s reports show 76,629 unemployment/reemployment assistance claims applicants from Palm Beach County and 1,544,904 applicants processed statewide by the Florida Dept. of Economic Opportunity to date out of more than 2 million submitted claims.

“As predicted, April was one of the worst months in labor market history with over 93,000 jobs lost in the county,” said Julia Dattolo, interim president and CEO of CareerSource Palm Beach County, the nonprofit organization chartered by the state to lead workforce development in Palm Beach County.  “That said, we are hopeful the impact will be short-term and, with businesses reopening, we are likely to see some improvement in our local economy with the next report.”

As businesses across our region reopen, CareerSource Palm Beach County this week launched a new ‘Help Is Here’ web portal to assist job seekers and employers in their efforts to access assistance needed for recovery. The new web portal can be accessed Here or from the organization’s home page at

Help Is Here is CareerSource Palm Beach County’s focused public and business outreach effort to:

  • Connect job seekers and businesses to critical resources for local, personalized help
  • Develop innovative solutions to generate job recovery/retention and business continuity, driving economic recovery
  • Provide links to state and federal assistance programs

“Our communities need support, sound advice and the most current information during this challenging time,” said Ms. Dattolo.  “We are very much engaged in preparing job seekers for new opportunities and helping businesses find the talent they need to reopen and thrive in Palm Beach County.”

Applications also start today for Palm Beach County’s $60 million Business Restart Program to accelerate the reopening of businesses hit by COVID-19. The county has dedicated $50 million toward businesses with 25 or fewer employees and $10 million towards businesses with greater than 25 employees. Criteria and an application can be found at:

Many businesses are ramping up to rehire staff as well as hire new candidates. The CareerSource Business Services staff connects employers with qualified candidates – at no cost. They can be contacted at or call 561.340.1060 and select option 3.

Reopening preparations have been underway so that CareerSource Palm Beach County’s Central Career Center at 3400 Belvedere Road in West Palm Beach will be ready to provide limited services in person beginning June 1. Until then, staff members are continuing to serve customers remotely via emails, online and phone communications as well as website and social media channels.

“We are very much engaged in serving the needs of job seekers and employers virtually by events, webinars and presentations along with answering thousands of calls and emails from our customers,” Ms. Dattolo said. “We look forward to serving them in person beginning June 1.”

During the past five program years, CareerSource Palm Beach County assisted 80,500 residents find employment ranging from entry level to executive suite, with salaries from these jobs creating $1.85 billion in annual wages. CareerSource also awarded $23 million in grants to area businesses and employees for job training and educational assistance during that time.  

Next monthly employment reports for Florida and Palm Beach County: State and local employment reports for May are scheduled for release on June 19.  


Note to editors: You are invited to interview a CareerSource spokesperson on local employment and economic trends before 3:30 p.m. today. Please call 561.340.1061 ext. 2229 for scheduling.