Florida jobless claims fell below 17,000 last month

In this file photo, Nailea Rosales works behind a protective shield wearing a protective mask and gloves at the Morada Bay Beach Cafe in Islamorada in the Florida Keys during the new coronavirus pandemic.
In this file photo, Nailea Rosales works behind a protective shield wearing a protective mask and gloves at the Morada Bay Beach Cafe in Islamorada in the Florida Keys during the new coronavirus pandemic. (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – First-time unemployment claims in Florida came in under 20,000 for a fourth straight week, as the state’s jobs picture has improved amid the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. Department of Labor estimated Florida posted 16,709 new claims during the week that ended March 13, down from a revised count of 19,281 for the week ending March 6. The initial estimate for the week of March 6 was 16,005 applications.

The Department of Labor estimated 770,000 jobless claims were filed nationally last week, an increase of 45,000 from the week ending March 6.

Since the start of February, Florida has averaged 19,486 new claims a week after topping 50,000 a week in January as layoffs occurred at places such as theme parks in Central Florida. Over the past year, the state Department of Economic Opportunity has paid out $24.25 billion in state and federal relief to 2.3 million claimants.

On Monday, the department estimated Florida’s unemployment rate was 4.8% in January, reflecting 482,000 Floridians out of work from a labor force of 10.07 million. The state’s labor force had shrunk by 390,000 in the past year. A February unemployment rate will be released March 26.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate in January was 6.3%.