TALLAHASSEE — Florida continues to see new unemployment claims roll in at pre-pandemic levels, even as leisure and tourism-related businesses maintain they are struggling to attract workers.
The U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday estimated 6,430 new claims were filed in Florida during the week that ended July 10, down from a revised count of 6,739 during the week that ended July 3.
Nationally, 360,000 new claims were filed last week, down 26,000 from the previous week’s revised count.
The national number is the lowest since the week ending March 14, 2020, when 256,000 claims were filed.
That same week in 2020, Florida recorded 6,463 first-time jobless claims. A week earlier, 5,325 new claims were filed.
For the past four weeks, Florida has averaged 6,938 new claims a week.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, which will update the state’s employment data on Friday, marks the start of the pandemic as March 15, 2020. New jobless claims spiked to 74,313 that week, quickly overwhelming the state’s online unemployment system.
The state’s unemployment rate now stands at 4.9 percent, reflecting 503,000 people qualifying as out of work from a workforce of 10.24 million in mid-May.
The state update follows the U.S. Department of Labor announcing on July 2 the nation added 850,000 jobs, as the pace of hiring has picked up alongside a surge in pandemic-reopening consumer demand.
The countrywide monthly count is up from 583,000 in May and 278,000 in April. Still, the unemployment rate edged up from 5.6 percent to 5.9 percent as people return to the workforce.
Florida’s rate has seen a similar uptick, even as some industries continue to report that people are slow to return to work.
For example, the American Hotel & Lodging Association on Wednesday launched a “hotels are hiring” ad campaign.
“With leisure travel resuming, the hotel industry needs to fill thousands of open positions to meet an uptick in consumer travel demand,” the association stated in a press release. “To entice more workers to join the industry, hotels are offering employees more competitive pay, flexible scheduling, and additional benefits, including paid time off, health care benefits, retirement savings and more.”
On Tuesday, the National Federation of Independent Businesses reported the “labor shortage remains a challenge for small business as inflation increases.”
NFIB Florida executive director Bill Herrle anticipates an increase in people applying for work because of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ action last month to end Florida’s acceptance of federal pandemic-related unemployment assistance. The assistance is available to states until early September.
“Business throughout the state has been picking up, but having more demand than you’re able to deliver is a curse rather than a blessing,” Herrle said in a release.
The federal aid provided eligible Florida applicants $300 a week in assistance. Florida separately provides a maximum of $275 a week to those qualified as out of work.
Andrew Stettner, an expert on unemployment insurance and senior fellow at the Century Foundation, on Thursday argued for a continuation of the federal unemployment assistance, as 13.7 million workers nationally still are relying on unemployment aid.
“The fate of these workers, and our overall economic health, is one reason why Fed Chair Jerome Powell pledged on Wednesday to continue supporting the economy until it returned closer to pre-pandemic levels, noting that there is no notable difference in labor market outcomes between the some two dozen states that have cut off their residents from the $300 federal supplement and those that have not,” Stettner said in a statement.
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