TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis expects Florida to see “positive” jobs numbers next week when a June unemployment report is released.
DeSantis addressed the issue Monday as $600-a-week federal unemployment benefits are slated to expire at the end of July and as Florida deals with a surge in coronavirus cases.
Amid debate about whether federal aid will be extended, DeSantis said he supports Congress structuring benefits that would provide a “financial premium” as an incentive to return to work. But he said the issue for the state is how many jobs are able to return from the economic shutdown.
“If it’s 50 percent, you know, you’re going to have some problems,” DeSantis said during an appearance in The Villages. “If it’s 90 percent, you know, we’re going to be able to kind of deal with it.”
“We obviously haven’t had the job numbers yet, for our state in particular, but if you look at the national numbers, you know, we’re obviously anticipating a positive increase here in Florida to be reflected from June,” DeSantis continued. “And then obviously, we want to continue to do that as we move forward and in a very safe way.”
Florida’s tourism-reliant economy saw its unemployment rate go from 13.8 percent in April to 14.5 percent in May, even while businesses started reopening amid the pandemic.
The jobless rate was based on an estimated 1.412 million Floridians out of work from a labor force of nearly 9.71 million. June numbers are slated to be released by the state on July 17.
Last week, the national unemployment rate decreased 2.2 percentage points to 11.1 percent.
DeSantis’ optimism came despite the state in late June having to order bars and nightclubs to close again because of widespread violations of guidelines aimed at preventing spread of the virus. Also, on Monday, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced that he was ordering the closure of restaurant dining rooms, gyms and banquet facilities because of the surge of infections.
Meanwhile, the state’s economically critical theme parks have moved forward with opening. Universal Florida has opened with limited capacity and social distancing requirements, and Walt Disney World is slated to reopen the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom on Saturday.
DeSantis said he’s been impressed with Universal and said Disney’s plans are “very, very thorough.”
“Disney, I have no doubt it’s going to be a safe environment,” DeSantis said. “I think that where you start to see the spread is just in social situations, where people let their guard down, usually like a private party or something like that. That’s kind of what we’ve seen. But I think that the folks who put a premium on safety, that’s showing you were able to handle this, have society function. We still want people going to work. But do it in a way that you take some basic precautions.”
Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor estimated 84,608 first-time unemployment claims in Florida during the week that ended June 27. That was an improvement from 95,685 claims the prior week and below the 88,148 during the week that ended June 13.
Since March 15, nearly 2.85 million jobless applications have been filed in the state, with about 2.63 million considered “unique,” according to the state Department of Economic Opportunity. Of the unique claims, more than 2.4 million had been processed as of Sunday, with 1.6 million claimants paid. The state has distributed $8.8 billion in state and federal benefits, of which $2.08 billion was state money.