Palm Beach County Unemployment Rate Drops to 3.2 Percent, But Recession Nearly a Certainty with Coronavirus Impact

West Palm Beach, Fla. (March 16, 2020) – 2020 opened with an unemployment rate of 3.2 percent for Palm Beach County -- below the year ago rate of 3.9 percent -- but a month following a record low 2.9 percent unemployment rate in December 2019, 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).

Palm Beach County’s unemployment rate remained below the 4.0 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 3.0 percent.  


Coronavirus impacts local market: While January’s report would normally be good news, it’s little more than a nostalgic look back with the coronavirus impact on national, state and local markets making the prospects of recession a near certainty.


“While we’re all seeing the negative impact this is having on national and local markets, fortunately, we are facing the start of this from a position of economic strength,” 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.   


The greatest impact is expected to be on Palm Beach County’s hospitality and tourism industry that supports the livelihood of 70,000 people with an annual impact of $7.7 billion to the local economy. However, Ms. Dattolo expects Palm Beach County will weather the storm better than most other key Florida destinations. 


“The winter tourist season here is nearing an end and other counties with large numbers of cruise ships, theme parks and international flight traffic will feel it the most,” she said.  


It won’t be until the February 2020 employment reports for Palm Beach County and Florida are released on March 27 that CareerSource expects to fully assess the initial impact of the coronavirus on the local economy and employment. The county’s highest unemployment rate during the decade reached 11.6 percent during the so-called Great Recession in summer 2010. The record low unemployment rate occurred at the end of the decade -- 2.7 percent in Dec. 2019.


Virtual services available: Just as many educational institutions are moving online, 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


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


While its career centers in West Palm Beach, Delray Beach and Belle Glade remain open, 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. 


CareerSource Palm Beach County initiated and developed the system, which is now available statewide and has been presented to the National Association of Workforce Boards, Florida Dept. of Education, Florida Dept. of Economic Opportunity, and CareerSource Florida. 


Job growth by industry sector: On a percentage basis, job gains in January were led by the leisure/hospitality and government sectors both with 2.9 percent over-the-year job growth, besting statewide gains in of 2.1 percent in leisure/hospitality and 1.4 percent in government. 


By the numbers, over-the-year job gains/losses in Palm Beach County were:

Industry                                               Change

Leisure/hospitality                                +2,700 jobs

Government                                         +1,900 jobs

Construction                                        +1,000 jobs

Professional/business services              +800 jobs

Financial activities                                +500 jobs

Education/health services                     +500 jobs

Manufacturing                                      +400 jobs

Other services                                      +200 jobs

Information                                          -300 jobs

Trade/transportation/utilities               -2,500 jobs 


CareerSource offers classes and facilities for job searches, grants for job skills training for those who qualify, career development and consulting – at no cost to you! 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 Feb. 2020 are scheduled for release on March 27. At the beginning of each year, there is a lag in reporting Jan. and Feb. employment data as the government recalibrates historical data factoring in new population inputs and revisions to economic data, creating changes in the original statistics. 


Note to editors: You are invited to interview a CareerSource spokesperson on local employment and economic trends, and/or career seekers at our Central Career Center in West Palm Beach. Please call 561.340.1061 ext. 2229 before 3:00 p.m. today for scheduling.