Florida’s first-time unemployment claims took another slight decline last week, reflecting a sluggish economic recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the reporting week ended Sept. 19, claims fell by 1,436 from the week before, to 35,829. But nationally, the figure was 870,000, an increase of 4,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 866,000, the U.S. Department of Labor reported on Thursday.
Although Florida’s first-time claims show gradual week-to-week declines, they remain roughly five to six times higher than before the pandemic struck down the economy in mid-March. The state received 5,325 unemployment applications the first week in March and 6,463 in the second week.
“As the downturn persists past the half-year mark, new jobless claims continue on the rise,” said Bankrate senior economic analyst Mark Hamrick, referring to the U.S. figures. “This is heartbreaking, both taking a broad view and also at the personal level for the more than 800,000 individuals who filed through traditional state programs, as well as the more than 600,000 who filed under the [federal] Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. This means about 1.5 million new claims were seen in the latest week under these programs, and a total of 26 million persons receiving some type of assistance in early September.”
In Florida and nationally, the unemployment rate is below 10%, with the state’s rate plunging to 7.4% for August and the national rate falling to 8.4%. Across the country, 1.4 million jobs were added to the job market with month-over-month increases occurring in most industry sectors. But year-over-year job loss comparisons dwarf the incremental gains achieved during the summer.
During various business roundtables around the state, Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he hopes to have 99% of the businesses around the state reopened. But although many have opened their doors, managements are still not recalling all of the workers they employed before COVID-19 slowed the the economy to a crawl in March.
The most profound impact has been on the leisure and hospitality industry, where hotel and restaurant owners have been constrained by local government restrictions and a dearth of customers from operating at full capacity.
South Florida area hotels continue to extend COVID-19-related employee furloughs that started in March, saying the duration of the pandemic’s impact on their businesses has become longer than anticipated.
The venerable Breakers Palm Beach was among the latest to file a notice with the state, saying 642 employees are affected. But management emphasized the action is “temporary” for a majority of the workers. The DoubleTree by Hilton Grand Hotel Biscayne Bay in Miami said furloughs are being extended for 44 of its employees.
As of Tuesday, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity had paid 1,994,414 people more than $16.5 billion in state and federal benefits, with a majority of the money coming from programs funded by the U.S. Government programs.
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