The labor force in Pinellas County has topped the half-million mark for the first time.
The county’s labor force — a combined total of people who have jobs and people on unemployment who are seeking work — was 501,393 in April 2021, compared to 497,163 in March 2021, according to Pinellas County Economic Development.
The employment number, or number of people who have a job, also increased by about 4,000, from 475,372 in March to 479,580 in April.
Unemployment has held steady at about 4.4 percent in both April and in March. Among Florida’s largest counties, Pinellas the lowest unemployment rate and is doing better than the nation, the state and the metropolitan area, said Stacey Swank, public relations and media manager for Pinellas County Economic Development.
“For us, it’s a great win that unemployment is coming down while labor force is going up,” she said. “We have more employed in Pinellas, and that’s always our goal.”
It’s a big turnaround from a year ago, as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold and businesses closed or curtailed operations. In April 2020, the unemployment rate in Pinellas County was 14.7 percent, with 403,441 people employed and a total labor force of 472,700.
While the April 20201 employment numbers may change slightly in the future for seasonal adjustments, economic developers are confident the labor force will remain over 500,000.
“It’s a great thing for Pinellas County and shows how we have diversified the economy and are growing in all sectors,” Swank said.
The labor force benchmark points to the strength of the community when it comes to “work from anywhere,” a trend accelerated by the pandemic.
“If you can work from anywhere you might want to choose to work here in paradise. So we’ve seen some strength in openings in professional services, with the Fortune 500s in the community,” Swank said.
Pinellas County economic developers also are seeing rebounds in the construction and hospitality industries nationally that they believe could account for some of the labor force gains locally. As more restaurants reopen and expand capacity, “we’re hearing anecdotally they are posting more positions and looking for more workers,” Swank said.
There also have been some relocations to the area — companies such as CrossBorder Solutions, a $1 billion fintech firm that moved from New York to St. Petersburg in March. Existing companies such as Jabil, a manufacturing services firm in St. Pete, have expanded as well, but Swank could not say if there was a direct tie to the labor force totals.