Palm Beach County Feb. Unemployment Rate Drops to 3.0 Percent, Little Significance Amid Unprecedented COVID-19 Impact

West Palm Beach, Fla. (March 27, 2020) – February’s unemployment rate of 3.0 percent for Palm Beach County dropped below the year ago rate of 3.4 percent and below the 3.2 percent unemployment rate in January, 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 rate remained below the 3.8 percent national rate, continuing a 3-year streak in which the county’s rate has stayed below or matched the national rate. Florida’s rate is 2.8 percent.  

All of this would normally be good news, but it has little significance with the COVID-19 impact plunging national, state and local markets into recession along with the prospect of record unemployment -- at least in the short term.

“Seeing the economy and employment go from full throttle to sudden stop is unprecedented,” 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.  “Fortunately, we have faced the start of this from a position of economic strength and we are optimistic that this will be limited to a short-term impact.”

The county’s highest unemployment rate reached nearly 12 percent during the so-called Great Recession in summer 2010. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 impact could set a new record high. Ironically, the county’s record low unemployment rate -- 2.7 percent -- occurred in Dec. 2019.

Virtual services available: While the county has ordered CareerSource Palm Beach County offices closed until further notice, limited virtual services are available online and by email and phone.

“It’s important to follow the county’s order to help protect our customers, staff and community partners,” said Ms. Dattolo. “We are using technology to serve our customers in the form of emails, online and phone communications, website and social media channels.”

CareerSource Palm Beach County is serving many of its customers’ needs remotely through its Virtual Career System (VCS), available from the organization’s home page at www.careersourcepbc.com.

“Our online Virtual Career System is available 24/7 to serve our customers from their homes via computer or mobile device,” she said.

The VCS is available to:

  • Guide job seekers through their job search campaign, including creating a professional resume and posting it on the Employ Florida statewide jobs database, preparing for job interviews and conducting online job, industry and employer research.
  • Connect employers with talent, including posting/managing job openings, searching for talent and using the virtual recruiter feature, exploring wage/salary information and how to apply for employee training grants.
  • Introduce students to career interests and options, including identifying and building on skills to explore career and educational opportunities.

Services for employers available: Our Business Services staff can connect your business with qualified candidates for your job openings – at no cost to you. Contact us at www.careersourcepbc.com or call 561.340.1060 and select option 3.

The Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program is available to provide short-term, interest-free loans to small businesses that experienced economic injury from COVID-19. The application period is open now and runs through May 8, 2020. Interested businesses should visit FloridaDisasterLoan.org for more information.

The U.S. Small Business Administration is also offering low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury.

The Short Time Compensation Program, also known as Work Sharing, allows employers to receive assistance with retaining their employees. The program is administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and permits prorated reemployment assistance benefits to employees whose work hours and earnings are reduced — helping to avoid layoffs.

The Business Damage Assessment survey evaluates businesses affected by COVID-19 and the impacts the virus has had on the local economy so actions to implement appropriate relief programs can begin. All businesses that have been impacted should fill out the survey at https://floridadisaster.biz/.

CareerSource is continuing to monitor information updates from national, state and local sources regarding the coronavirus outbreak.  Updates on services and operations will be posted on the organization’s website at www.careersourcepbc.com.

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 March are scheduled for release on April 17.  

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