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New unemployment claims drop during Thanksgiving week

Another 712,000 Americans filed new unemployment claims.
This May 8 photo shows a hiring sign at the Aldi grocery store in Morton Grove, Ill. The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week to a still-high 712,000, the latest sign that the U.S. economy and job market remain under stress from the intensified viral outbreak.
This May 8 photo shows a hiring sign at the Aldi grocery store in Morton Grove, Ill. The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week to a still-high 712,000, the latest sign that the U.S. economy and job market remain under stress from the intensified viral outbreak. [ NAM Y. HUH | AP ]
Published Dec. 3, 2020
Updated Dec. 3, 2020

Another 712,000 Americans filed new unemployment claims during Thanksgiving week, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor.

That number wiped out two straight weeks of increases, during which the number of new jobless claims rose to 787,000. It remained more than three times higher than Thanksgiving week a year ago, and higher than any non-pandemic week in the past 50 years.

In all, 20.16 million Americans received some form of unemployment insurance for the week ending Nov. 14, the most recent week for which data is available.

The number of new claims filed in Florida last week was 20,787, down from a revised total of 26,931 the week before. To date, the state has funneled more than $18.9 billion to 2.12 million claimants, most of that in federal funding.

Florida’s claims total, like that of most states, is typically revised upward in the days following each week’s Department of Labor release — a trend that the Government Accountability Office this week said may be contributing to a pandemic-long miscount of the actual number of jobless workers receiving benefits.

In a report issued Nov. 30, the office said the number of weekly claims reported by the Department of Labor “may not have been an accurate estimate ... because of backlogs in processing a historic volume of claims, among other data issues.” The office recommended that the Department of Labor gather more state-level data in order to clarify its weekly reports to better reflect the unemployment situation on the ground.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on Thursday reported that the national unemployment rate (before factoring in normal seasonal adjustments) was 6.6 percent in October, with higher year-over-year rates in nearly every metropolitan region. The Tampa Bay area’s adjusted rate was 5.6 percent, a slight decrease from September. That’s below the state and national averages, but nearly twice what it was in 2019.

One company that recently announced plans to enact temporary furloughs in Tampa: Southwest Airlines.

After offering employee buyouts and announcing plans to cut salaries, the carrier filed notice with the state that it would likely furlough 77 union aircraft and ground service equipment technicians at three Florida airports starting in January or February. That includes 32 workers at Tampa International Airport, where Southwest is the largest carrier. From October 2019 to October 2020, Southwest passenger traffic through Tampa decreased 63.3 percent.

“All of our airlines saw significant year-over-year reductions,” Chris Minner, the airport’s executive vice president of marketing and communications, said during a Hillsborough County Aviation Authority board meeting Thursday.

Still, Minner said, overall passenger traffic was above forecast for October and November, representing a boost from a summer plateau — a positive sign for carriers hammered by the pandemic.

“Certainly, the Thanksgiving surge in traffic that we saw ... was really significant here, very encouraging for overall demand,” he said.