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Florida Workforce Update

A robust economy is a staple for securing high tax revenue and boosting the well-being of taxpayers. Although Florida’s economy enjoys a strong rebound with historically low unemployment, the dynamic of its workforce has changed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, shuffling where opportunities lie and surfacing new challenges. Stories of resignations, questions of remote work’s newfound place, and observations of lingering workforce barriers remain relevant, and to pursue continued economic success, Floridians should consider ways for businesses to adapt to persisting workforce changes.

Is Remote Work a Phase, or Here to Stay?

In July 2021, the Florida TaxWatch report “Beyond the Pandemic: Long-Term Changes and Challenges for Florida’s Workforce” noted that nearly 32 percent of Florida’s workforce worked from home during the latter half of 2020. Once a necessity, remote work is now often viewed as a benefit. Cited benefits of completing at least some work from home include being present with family, better management of work-life conflict, and better mental health. Employees also save time and money by abandoning daily commutes and perhaps become more capable to live in areas they are better able to afford. Employers are seeing benefits as well, such as larger talent pools and lower overhead costs. 

For Florida, remote work should be perceived as an opportunity. When Florida residents take remote work from other states, they are bringing money to Florida that can be spent fueling the local economy. Remote work is most prevalent for positions requiring a degree, meaning the additional earnings brought to Florida are relatively high. Despite new economic opportunities, the proliferation of remote work does not come without risks. Remote work can make it easier for businesses, job opportunities, and residents to leave the state.

As Florida employers determine the role remote work plays within their own businesses, they should consider:

  • What work environment do my current employees, or prospective employees, prefer?
  • If my preference does not align with the preferences of my employees, is there another benefit
  • or a compromise that could be made to ensure they remain committed to my business?
  • Does remote work benefit my business?
  • Are there ways that I could better integrate remote or hybrid roles with my business practices?

Are Women Returning to the Labor Force?

In January 2022, the Florida TaxWatch working paper “Where are the Women?” estimated 170,000 working women left the workforce during the pandemic and never came back. In July 2022, more women were in the labor force than there were at the end of 2019; however, it is unclear whether this is due to women returning to the workforce or population growth. Participating in the labor force is a personal choice, but if obstacles are keeping willing women out of the labor force, the state has an interest in keeping jobs accessible.

Time Use Survey of 2021 to the American Time Use Survey of 2019, the following work trends stand out:

  • Before the pandemic, 26 percent of employed women did at least part of their work at home. In
  • 2021, the number leaped to 42 percent, which is seven percentage points higher than the
  • percent of employed men completing at least some work at home.
  • The number of female full-time workers has increased by 2.0 million workers since 2019;
  • however, the number of female part-time workers has declined by 3.3 million.
  • Average hours providing secondary childcare—a form of unpaid work—has increased by one
  • hour for women in households with children ages six to 12.

Without more information, the full impact these changes hold for Florida’s labor market remains unclear. As Florida strives to be home to a ready and talented workforce and keep up with the demands of employers, the following should be considered:

  • Does the influx of remote work reflect new job opportunities for women or post-pandemic adaptions to roles they already held?
  • Did the women who once worked part-time move to full-time positions? If so, was it by choice or by financial need?
  • Did part-time workers leave because other expenses, such as transportation or childcare, outweighed the earnings of a part-time job?
  • Is the extra hour performing childcare a convenience formed by expanded remote options, an outcome of less women in the labor force, or a burden as women try to balance the duties of work and home?

Is the Great Resignation Still Occurring?

In May 2021, the “Great Resignation” was first used to describe the unusually high quit rates within the job market. Since then, quit rates have become higher in Florida. In June 2022, the Florida quit rate was 3.6 percent (338,000 workers), surpassing the national quit rate of 3.0 percent (4.5 million workers). In January 2022, the Florida TaxWatch report “Despite Positive Job Growth In Recent Months, People Are Quitting Jobs At Record Rates” noted that Florida was not spared; experiencing a peak at which 277,000 employees left their jobs in September 2021.

One likely culprit for the high quit rate is money. As Floridians tackle rising inflation, they may be pursuing jobs that can help them better pay the bills. The leisure and hospitality industry is enduring the highest quit rates nationwide (see Table 1). As an industry with frequently low wages—and the smallest hourly earnings among industries in Florida—workers could be leaving their jobs in hopes of finding new ones that better sustain their financial needs.

As employers strive to attract and retain talent, they may need to change how their business operates. Rather than look for specific talent, some employers may need programs to train new recruits. Some employers may choose to extend remote options to expand their applicant pool and retain those enjoying the benefits of remote work. Employers can also try appealing to the values prospective employees find “very important” by providing positive culture, mental health/wellbeing benefits, a sense of purpose/meaning, flexible work hours, and paid vacation time.18 Businesses should consider:

  • What attracts effective employees?
  • What encourages employees to stay?
  • How flexible are the operations of my business; can I adapt to better satisfy the values and preferences of my employees?

Florida has experienced significant economic growth over the past few years, but the state should not grow complacent. Florida should continue monitoring and evaluating the changing nature of its workforce to ensure businesses take intentional and well-informed actions in favor of greater economic growth and the well-being of taxpayers. For additional information, please refer to FTW’s research on the impact of childcare on Florida’s workforce (July 2022), wage growth and talent attraction (February 2022), women leaving and not returning to the workplace (January 2022), escalating quit rates (January 2022), and long-term changes and challenges for Florida’s workforce (July 2021).

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