Unemployment claims soar in Florida as COVID-19 outbreak shuts down the state’s economy

Unemployment Insurance benefits for millions of Americans who lost their jobs in Florida and across the nation due to coronavirus shutdowns and slowdowns are at center stage as Congress fights over whether to extend or slash a $600 weekly supplement paid atop state benefits. In Florida, UI benefits are capped at $275 weekly. Credit: Florida Department of Economic Opportunity

The COVID-19 crisis has tripled the number of Florida workers filing new claims for unemployment in the last week, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Some 227,000 jobless workers in Florida filed for unemployment benefits in the week ending on March 28, the report shows. It compares to the 74,313 claims filed in the prior week. More than 300,000 workers have filed for unemployment in the last two weeks in the nation’s third-largest state.

Nationally, 6.6 million people filed new unemployment claims in the last week, for a two-week total of more than 10 million, the report shows. The recent filings have shattered the previous worst week of national unemployment claims, which was 695,000 in 1982.

Florida’s 227,000 new unemployment claims ranked seventh among the 50 states in the new report.

The top five states were: California (878,727); Pennsylvania (405,880); New York (366,403); Michigan (311,086); and Ohio (272,129).

Through mid-March, the Department of Labor attributed Florida’s increase in jobless workers to “layoffs in the service, retail trade, manufacturing, wholesale trade, construction, and agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industries.”

The story was similar in other states. California’s job losses were tied to the service industry, while New York’s unemployment claims were caused by layoffs in the “accommodation and food services, arts, entertainment, and recreation, and health care and social assistance industries.”

The report cited the COVID-19 outbreak for the increase in initial unemployment claims in the majority of states.

Jobless workers in Florida, although they are in line for enhanced federal benefits, including an extra $600 a week in support, remain frustrated by a state unemployment benefits system that is overwhelmed by the demand of workers seeking to file their applications.

The Florida Phoenix has reported on the problems in this story and this report.

Lloyd Dunkelberger
Lloyd Dunkelberger has been covering Florida government for over three decades. He’s reported and edited in Tallahassee for the New York Times Regional Newspapers group, Florida Politics, and the News Service of Florida. He grew up in Jacksonville and Palm Beach County and got his journalism degree at the University of Florida.