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Unemployment claims rise again, with another 719,000 filing last week

In Florida, new claims drop as another ‘quarter change’ hits the state’s unemployment system.
In this July 18, 2020, photo, a closed sign hangs in the window of a barber shop in Burbank, Calif.
In this July 18, 2020, photo, a closed sign hangs in the window of a barber shop in Burbank, Calif. [ MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ ]
Published Apr. 1
Updated Apr. 1

A week after hitting a new pandemic low, new unemployment claims are back on the rise.

Another 719,000 Americans filed their initial claims for unemployment benefits last week, an increase of 61,000 from the previous week’s revised number.

The good news: The four-week rolling average of claims, a good measure of the overall unemployment market, also sat at 719,000, the lowest it’s been since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Last year at this time, the number of Americans filing new claims was shooting toward its peak, as layoffs hit the labor force.

Overall, for the week ending March 13, there were 18.2 million Americans receiving some form of unemployment benefits, a decrease from the previous week but still up from 2.1 million year over year.

In Florida, the number of new jobless claims reported to the U.S. Department of Labor last week dropped to 11,700, a number that is likely to be adjusted upward next week, but still represents a low during the pandemic. To date, Florida’s Department of Employment Opportunity has shepherded $25.1 billion to 2.3 million residents, about 80 percent of that in federal relief.

Florida on Thursday saw the arrival of another new “quarter change,” a wrinkle that requires users to log into its unemployment system, CONNECT, and answer a few questions affirming that they meet the state’s requirements to receive unemployment insurance. Depending on your work history during 2020, you may have to reapply for state insurance.

Related: Florida's unemployment 'quarter change' returns; here's what it means

Completing the quarter change enables workers to continue getting federal aid like Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which covers gig workers and the self-employed; and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which extends one’s benefit eligibility window.

Related: Florida unemployment: Applications open for $100 mixed earner benefit claims

This week, state lawmakers took the first steps toward approving an increase in the weekly maximum for state unemployment from $275 to $375. It must still pass through several committees as well as the state House and Senate before Gov. Ron DeSantis can sign it into law.