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Corona Economics

Half-million Floridians filed for unemployment last week

Florida’s total unemployment claims top 1.1 million since mid-March.

Florida’s surplus of people thrown out of work by the coronavirus crisis finally began to surface in federal reports, as 505,137 new claims for unemployment compensation were logged last week by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The half-million claims for the one-week period ending April 18 was nearly three times what had been reported the previous week, and is second-highest nationally only to California’s 533,568 new unemployment claims, according to the latest Department of Labor report, issued Thursday morning.

With that report, 1.16 million Floridians have now officially been recorded in unemployment compensation filings since the coronavirus crisis first started crushing the economy in mid-March.

Florida’s numbers of logged by federal authorities had lagged actual unemployment for a monthin large part because of deep, chronic, and perhaps still not fully-resolved problems with Florida’s application system.

As Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity have struggled to fix Florida’s application system, Florida’s weekly claims totals have looked more like Indiana’s or North Carolina’s, rather than like those of the country’s third-most populous state, and like one whose economy is driven by one of the hardest hit industries, tourism and hospitality.

The bubble of unemployed claims finally broke through the processing barrier, but it might not have fully surfaced. Widespread problems with the system are still being reported and repaired, and this week’s claims will not be revealed until next Thursday.

Critics of the Governor’s efforts to resolve the DEO problems with unemployment claims, led by Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo, were quick to pounce on the news about the latest federal numbers.

“These numbers are a reminder that we are in an employment crisis. Florida’s government must act to expand benefits and expand access to unemployment assistance. Governor Ron DeSantis isn’t doing nearly enough to help Florida’s struggling workers,” Rizzo declared in a release issued Thursday by the party. “If DeSantis was serious about this crisis he and his Republican allies would get to work on a legislative fix for Florida’s broken unemployment system. Until then, Floridians will tragically continue to suffer needless economic hardship. Governor, the time to act is now!”

The more than half million claims logged last week compares with 180,419 claims the previous week, 169,885 the week before that, 228,484 the week before that, and 74,021 for the week that ended March 21, which was the week much of Florida’s economy collapsed.

Last week Florida was one of only a half-dozen states that saw unemployment claims increase from the previous week, along with Connecticut, Kansas, Louisiana, Texas, and West Virginia. Florida’s one-week increase was about triple the increases of those other five states combined.

Nationally, the total of seasonally adjusted initial new claims for unemployment compensation was 4,427,000, a decrease of 810,000 from the previous week’s revised level.

The 4-week moving average was 5,786,500, an increase of 280,000 from the previous week’s revised average.

That means 26.2 million Americans have filed claims since March 14.

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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