Unemployment claims jump back over 1 million; Florida’s claims rise, too

Hospitality remains one of the hardest-hit sectors, as several large Tampa Bay hotels have extended mass layoffs.
The Grand Plaza Hotel on St. Pete Beach has notified the state it will extend furloughs for 94 workers due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Grand Plaza Hotel on St. Pete Beach has notified the state it will extend furloughs for 94 workers due to the coronavirus pandemic. [ HOLLIDAY FENOGLIO FOWLER, L.P. | Holliday Fenoglio Fowler, L.P. ]
Published Aug. 20, 2020|Updated Aug. 20, 2020

New unemployment claims are back on the rise.

Seven days after the weekly number of Americans filing initial claims for unemployment insurance dropped below 1 million for the first time since March, they jumped back into seven figures on Thursday, with 1.1 million new claims filed between Aug. 9 and 15.

That remains below the four-week rolling average, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, but it’s still a week-over-week increase of 135,000. The overall number of new claims filed during coronavirus pandemic now sits around 57.4 million.

Florida, too, has seen its number of new claims rise for the first time in a month. New claims for the week ending Aug. 8 were initially reported to be 55,106, but revised this week to 61,584.

The number for the week ending Aug. 15: 66,322.

Since March, the state has funneled $14 billion to nearly 1.9 million claimants, including more than $11 billion in federal funding. Around 300,000 claims came from the hotel and food services industries, by far the most of any specified sector. Administrative, support, waste management and related jobs rank second, with 190,000 claims; while retail ranks third, with nearly 180,000.

“Retail and hospitality, those are the ones that have taken the biggest hit, as most of us have observed in our own communities ― the restaurants and shops that have had to close or limit their occupancy,” said Carl Hadden, associate director at the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of South Florida.

Over the last three weeks, four large Tampa Bay hotels have extended mass layoffs from the spring, according to notices filed with the state:

  • The Westin Tampa Bay along the Courtney Campbell Causeway, which furloughed 75 workers in March, said those cuts “will be considered permanent.” This spring, the Nashville company that owns the hotel received a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan worth between $150,000 and $350,000.
  • The Embassy Suites by Hilton Tampa Downtown Convention Center also furloughed 75 workers in March, and now expects most if not all of them to be out of work until at least the fall.
  • The Beachcomber Beach Resort and Hotel on St. Pete Beach furloughed 111 workers in March, and recently said 38 will remain furloughed at least into the fall. The company that owns the Beachcomber received a PPP loan worth between $350,000 and $1 million.
  • The Grand Plaza Hotel on St. Pete Beach, which is managed by the same hospitality company as the Beachcomber, has extended furloughs for 94 workers let go in March. The hotel’s owners received a PPP loan worth between $1 million and $2 million.

“Hotels are just really hurting,” said Michael “Doc” Terry, an associate professor of hospitality at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida. “The group (travel) business is just disintegrated, and will be disintegrated for many months to come. The leisure group has also disintegrated, as far as sporting events, concerts, and all that. That takes a huge chunk out of half of the business who goes to hotels in our country.”

Florida hotels will feel even more of a crunch come October and November, traditionally busy months for corporate conventions, retreats and trade shows.

“They’re getting canceled pretty regularly,” Terry said. “They’re going to more virtual, so you’re losing that business.”

Terry said hotels could rehire workers as the number of individuals or families traveling for business or pleasure picks up toward the end of 2020. Group travel, on the other hand, may not recover “for many months, unless some crazy stuff comes up with vaccines and immunities and other things. I don’t see that happening this year.”

In Tampa Bay, where all four of the aforementioned hotels likely would have been packed for the Super Bowl in February, the prospect of bringing back furloughed workers is uncertain at best.

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“These giant group houses are the ones that are really most challenged,” Terry said.

• • •

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