Florida sees drop in jobless claims

FILE (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)
FILE (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images) (Robert Alexander)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – As Florida prepares to scale back unemployment benefits, the state had its first week of new jobless claims below 10,000 since March 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The federal agency issued a report Thursday that estimated Florida had 8,864 new claims during the week that ended May 22, down from a revised count of 14,561 during the previous week. The department had initially estimated 17,849 claims during the week that ended May 15.

Since the start of February, Florida had been averaging just under 20,000 new claims a week and had not been below 10,000 claims in a single week since 6,463 claims were filed during the week that ended March 14, 2020. The count surged to 74,313 claims the next week as businesses cut back operations due to the coronavirus pandemic and peaked at 506,670 claims during the week that ended April 18, 2020.

The state’s drop came as new claims nationally fell to 406,000 last week from 444,000 during the week that ended May 15.

To try to help spur people back into the workforce, Florida is preparing to reinstate on Tuesday a “work search” rule that requires unemployment claimants to apply for five jobs a week. The rule was suspended last year because of the pandemic. 

Florida has also announced that starting June 26, it will no longer provide $300 a week in federal unemployment assistance on top of the maximum $275 a week provided by the state.

Florida’s unemployment rate in April was 4.8%, reflecting an estimated 487,000 Floridians out of work from a workforce of 10.24 million.