A popular argument for why so many businesses are having difficulty getting enough workers is the extended federal unemployment benefit of $300 a week.

With the state benefit, an unemployed worker can get $575 a week, which equates to nearly $15 an hour for a 40-hour week.

The latest estimates from the state labor agency show there were 13,251 unemployed workers in Volusia County in April, up from 12,970 in March, but way down from 36,496 in April 2020. The unemployment rate was 5.2% compared to 5.1% in March and 15% a year ago.

So, there does seem to be quite a few more people available for jobs, but I have my doubts about how many are sitting around doing nothing and drawing $575 a week. Look around at your family and friends. How many people do you know who are unemployed and refusing to look for a job? I don’t know anyone, and I know a lot of people.

There is a bigger problem for employers in Volusia as well as the state and nation. The ratio of people older than 65, and usually retired, to people younger than 65 has grown. In the U.S., from 2006 to 2016, the population age 65 and over increased from 37.2 million to 49.2 million, up 33%, and is projected to almost double to 98 million in 2060. More than 20% of Florida's population in 2020 was older than 65 and, in Volusia, the over 65 sector was 21% out of 494,445 residents in 2010. In the latest estimate for 2020, it was 24% out of 553,000 people.

What that means is there are more people demanding services while the number of workers to provide those services has declined.

Combine that with a fast-growing Volusia economy (it was simply interrupted by the pandemic) and employers will continue having difficulty getting workers, and they will have to pay them a lot more than in the past.

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The weird impact of the pandemic continued in the fourth quarter of 2020 in Volusia with the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages showing average monthly employment at 169,651 compared to 175,400 in the fourth quarter of 2019. Wages on an annualized basis were at $48,020, up sharply from $44,484 a year before.

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There were a few significant commercial real estate deals recently. Local owners of The Daytona hotel at OneDaytona bought out their South Florida partners for about $4 million. Lennar Homes bought 27 lots in Wexford Reserve, just north of Halifax Plantation at the Volusia/Flagler line, for $2.31 million. A Boca Raton trust bought the 70-year-old Ocean Crest Motel at 2040 Ocean Shore Blvd. in Ormond Beach for $1.05 million, and then flipped it to a Big Pine Key couple for $1.2 million.

Local investors bought the commercial building at 233 North Causeway in New Smyrna Beach for $955,000. Two couples, one from Wisconsin and one from Maine, bought a hangar at the DeLand airport under the name Aerosport South LLC for $600,000.

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Only construction start of note was the Last Mango Theatre in the second phase of the amenity center at Latitude Margaritaville.

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However, a lot of plans hit the drawing board recently. Development of a 28,000-square-foot commercial multi-tenant building with a grocery store (7,770 square feet) and a separate 4,000-square-foot fast food restaurant with a drive-thru was proposed at the southwest corner of Summer Trees Road and Williamson Boulevard in Port Orange. A 122-room Woodspring Suites extended stay hotel is planned at 5840 Journey’s End Way, on the east side of Journey’s End Way between the Country Inn and Extra Space Storage in Port Orange.

A building permit is under review for a 9,450-square-foot addition to the Pharmex building at 4480 Eastport Park Way in Port Orange. Pharmex, which makes healthcare labeling, including patient ID wristbands, needs more warehouse space. Improvements are planned for property at 430 Andalusia Ave. in Ormond Beach for Air One, a new heating and cooling service.

Plans were submitted for the second phase of the Villas at Massey Ranch, which will have 13 houses, including 11 with hangars on the taxiway of Massey Ranch Airpark. Elegant Manor Estates with 54 lots is planned at the end of Airpark Road in Edgewater.

Managing Editor Cecil G. Brumley has been tracking business and the economy in Volusia County for more than 24 years. Contact him at cbrumley@hometownnewsmediagroup.com (no hyphens) or follow him on Twitter @cecilbrumley.

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