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Corona Economics

In Florida, 169,000 file for unemployment benefits

Claims were a little lower last week but still by far the second-highest total ever.

New unemployment claims in Florida totaled 169,885 in the week ending last Saturday, the second consecutive week of more than 100,000 but down some from the previous week as the coronavirus crisis economic collapse continued to push people out of work.

The total of claims in Florida nonetheless was the second-highest ever after the record-smashing 228,484 [adjusted from the previous week’s report] Floridians who sought benefits the week before, according to the latest numbers released by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Almost 500,000 Floridians have filed first-time claims for unemployment insurance in the past three weeks.

However, the data represents a period before the state started to expand the use of paper applications because people were unable to file through the troubled online CONNECT unemployment system.

On Wednesday, the Department of Economic Opportunity introduced a mobile-friendly online application for unemployment assistance as it tries to address problems in the system.

In the past week, hundreds of call center operators have been rushed through training, paper applications were made available and dozens of computer servers were brought from Orlando to boost the online system’s capacity.

Asked about the system on Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said “there’s definitely been progress.”

“We’re in a better position today than we were a week ago, and we need to continue to improve the system,” DeSantis said.

Florida followed a national pattern: Across America, 6.6 million people made first-time claims for unemployment benefits in the week ending last Saturday, following a slightly higher 6.8 million [adjusted] total the previous week.

Overall, nearly 17 million Americans have filed for benefits in three weeks’ time.

In Florida, the claims added up even as the state struggled for weeks to overcome a failing unemployment claims application system that crashed constantly for weeks and led to thousands of people to line up for paper copies of applications. Last week the state DOE logged more than 3.8 million calls.

On Wednesday the department launched a new website to help people apply.

The applicants are seeking up to $275 in state unemployment compensation and an additional $600 in federal benefits provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which Congress approved last month.

Despite the collapse of Florida’s vital tourism and hospitality industries, the Sunshine State continues to lag other states in total unemployment claims. Last week, California saw 925,000 claims; Georgia, 388,000; Michigan, 384,000; New York, 345,000; Texas, 314,000; Pennsylvania, 283,000; Ohio, 224,000; New Jersey, 213,000; Illinois, 200,000; and Washington, 176,000.

“In the week ending April 4, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 6,606,000, a decrease of 261,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised up by 219,000 from 6,648,000 to 6,867,000,” the U.S. Department of Labor stated in a news release issued Thursday morning.

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The News Service of Florida contributed to this post.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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