Nearly 170,000 jobless Floridians filed for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the total to 473,000 claims in the last three weeks, according to a U.S. Department of Labor report released Thursday.
Florida’s 169,885 unemployment benefits claims for the week ending April 4 showed a decline from the prior week when 228,484 claims were filed, the report shows. Another 74,313 claims were filed in the week ending March 21.
The decrease is not a sign of any improvement in Florida’s economy — which has been shuttered because of the COVID-19 outbreak — but is more likely a reflection of the difficulty Florida workers have in accessing the state’s unemployment system.
And the Phoenix has chronicled some of the faces of the jobless who have been laid off and trying to get unemployment benefits.
Ken Lawson, executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, said his agency is continuing to make improvements to the system, including launching a more “mobile friendly” online application and providing paper applications.
“The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity is committed to ensuring Floridians are able to receive the benefits owed to them during this global pandemic. The team is working around the clock to make the process for applying for reemployment assistance as easy as possible for Floridians,” Lawson said in a statement released Wednesday.
Florida’s 170,000 unemployment benefits claims last week ranked 11th among the 50 states, the federal report shows. California was at the top, with 925,450 claims made last week.
Other states in the top five included: Georgia (388,175); Michigan (384,844); New York (345,246); and Texas (313,832).
Nationally, 6.6 million Americans filed unemployment claims last week, representing a three-week total of about 17 million jobless workers, the federal report shows.
The majority of the unemployment benefits claims were attributed to the coronavirus outbreak, which has led to the closing of businesses, bars, dine-in restaurants and sports arenas across the nation.
In Florida, state officials cited layoffs “in the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting, construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, and other services industries,” the federal report shows.
As an illustration of the massive wave of claims, the report shows Florida’s 228,484 claims filed in the week of March 28, compares to 5,304 claims made during a similar week in March 2019.
Under Florida law, jobless workers can qualify for up to $275 a week in unemployment benefits for up to 12 weeks, one of the lowest amounts and shortest time periods in the country.
However, under the federal CARES Act, the workers will receive an additional $600 a week in federal support and the benefits can be extended for another 13 weeks. The federal law also allows part-time workers, gig economy workers and others who normally would not qualify for state benefits to receive federal unemployment support.