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Fishkind Conversations: Positive Signs For Florida In US Jobs Numbers


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Hank Fishkind. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE


The economic recovery from the pandemic continues. Last week it was reported that US payroll employment grew by 850-thousand in June, beating expectations. 

Economic analyst, Dr. Hank Fishkind, tells WMFE’s Matthew Peddie that the national numbers are good- and Florida’s economy is picking up as well.  

Hank Fishkind:  There were notable gains in leisure and hospitality: that was up 343,000, almost a third of the total gain in the whole United States. And that’s because the pandemic restrictions, of course, are easing everywhere. And half of the gain in particular was in food service and drinking places- 194,000. Employment also increased in accommodations, and in arts and entertainment, recreation. These are all the critical sectors of our tourism economy here in Central Florida. But there’s still a long way to go even as good as those numbers were.

Matthew Peddie: Well, let’s talk a little more about the data behind the recent job gains. Yeah. Tell me more about that.

HF: Yeah, sure. Even with these big gains, leisure and hospitality employment still down 2.2 million, or over 12% in the nation. It’s down 20% here in Orlando. And you know, we can really see those effects.

MP: And so where’s this data coming from?

HF: Well, the high frequency data comes from data from Open Table: that’s seated diners. And what it shows is in May, in Orlando, customer volume was up 1.3%, compared to May 2019. So that’s pre pandemic. So, you know, that’s great. But Orlando underperformed in the state, the volume was up 22%. And it underperformed every other large Florida Metro including Tampa. So so what we’re seeing is this big rebound from pent up demand, but less so here. And that’s because even though we have strong leisure travel, we have very diminished business travel and of course, Convention Center activities are down.

MP: Anecdotally, I think if you go out to restaurants, you see business is pretty good, people are back, those parking slots they have for curbside pickup, those slots are pretty much empty by now.

HF: Yeah, absolutely.

MP: Okay, so what about data for labor markets in Central Florida?

HF: Yeah, new claims for unemployment compensation: they’re down 50% in May, compared to the month before. And that’s true all across Central Florida. And other data showing significant strength as well, Matt.

MP: All right. What about housing markets? Those have been very strong for us as well, right?

HF: Yeah, here and everywhere, Matt, you know, here, the volumes are ahead of where they were, with strong activity in building permits. So we’re seeing a lot of new residential construction, and existing home sales are up 50% compared to last year, and prices are up 25%.

MP: There are still some areas of the economy that are lagging behind. Tell me about that.

HF: Yeah, you know, it’s the dismal science, we’ve got two areas that stand out. First, you know, business travel and Convention Center activity have still not recovered. And second, we discussed that adjustment that was caused by work from home, the latest data show, only about 32% of office workers are back in their offices all across the country. And that really reflects structural changes, and these are going to be long term for us. So even though the outlook is very bright for our area, the strength in leisure travel and the resumption of cruising, it’s going to more than offset the weaker areas. And there’s still a lot of pent up demand for travel. And we’re seeing that in the latest travel through Orlando International Airport and Hotel occupancies. But there’s still lagging sectors Matt, but you know, it’s gonna take time, but they’ll get better.

MP: Right. So the recovery is uneven, as we’ve talked about before. Hank Fishkind, president of Fishkind Litigation Services, thank you so much.

HF: Thank you, Matt.


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Matthew Peddie

About Matthew Peddie

Host of WMFE's Intersection & Assistant News Director

Matthew Peddie grew up in New Zealand and studied journalism at the University of Western Ontario. After graduating with an MA in Journalism he returned to Christchurch, working as a reporter for Radio Live and Radio New Zealand. He’s reported live from the scene of earthquakes, criminal trials and rugby ... Read Full Bio »

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