Even though businesses are slowly re-opening around the area and state, and furloughed employees are getting back into the employment world, Florida’s — and Osceola’s — employment statistics are still showing we have a ways to go before we are back to pre-COVID-19 levels.

The state Department of Economic Opportunity on Friday announced Florida’s employment rate is now 14.5 percent, which represents an estimated 1.412 million Floridians out of work from a labor force of nearly 9.71 million. The rate in April was 13.8 percent.

Central Florida communities rely heavily on the tourism and hospitality industries, and with all of the major theme parks still closed in May, Osceola County measured in with the state’s highest unemployment rate: 31.1 percent. Orange County came in at 23.2 percent. The metropolitan statistical area that includes Orlando, Kissimmee and Sanford had the biggest increase in unemployment, jumping from 16.8 percent in April to 22.6 percent in May.

The U.S. unemployment rate fell from 14.7 in April to 13.3 percent in May as 2.5 million jobs were added while big parts of the country began re-opening.

For many of those unemployed in Osceola County, assistance may be soon on the way. A payment of $16.3 million from the federal CARES Act was finally dispersed, and county commissioners will discuss the best way to use it at Monday’s 1:30 p.m. commission meeting.

“Now that the CARES Act funds will be available, I am pleased that the County is identifying ways we can help our residents financially. I believe that the best place for the use of these dollars are to continue to provide rental and mortgage foreclosure prevention assistance, along with support for our small business community and additional funding to prevent food insecurity,” Osceola Commission Chairwoman Viviana Janer said. “My fellow commissioners and I continue to see and hear from our residents about these difficult times and the ongoing concerns we all face. That’s why I’m still so proud to see the resilience of so many, with neighbor helping neighbor.”