Florida sees slight decrease in unemployment claims, but some still struggling

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Unemployment claims are continuing to fall in Florida, but some families are still hurting.

The U.S. Department of Labor on Wednesday reported an estimated 23,982 first-time jobless applications in Florida during the week that ended Nov. 21, a decrease of 376 from the prior week.

But some families say they’re struggling with the unemployment system and are in real financial trouble.

Sondra Caswell, who lives on Jacksonville’s Westside, hasn’t had a job since April.

She’s been collecting unemployment, but it expired. Then she filed for pandemic assistance, which she says was approved, however, she ran into a problem when she attempted to get onto the state’s unemployment website.

“I kind of feel like I’m getting the run around because I call them like two to three times a day,” Caswell said. “And they said ‘It’s a connect issue.’ They’re going to fix it over the weekend. They say, ‘Give it some time, give it some time.’ I say, ‘It’s been like a month and a half.’”

The economic outlook may be getting better, however. First time jobless claims fell last week for the sixth week in a row.

Wendell Chindra is president of the Clay County Chamber of Commerce. He says things are expected to improve after the uncertainty of the election and with the announcement of a COVID-19 vaccine. But an unemployment spike was expected.

“It’s on pause so to speak,” Chindra said. “Earlier on in [the pandemic], the Northeast Florida Regional Council put out an economic resiliency report. And in that report they said the region’s going to have unemployment probably about 15% higher than the national average. We’re seeing that right now.”

Nationally, initial claims increased by 30,000 to 778,000, reflecting, in part, coronavirus restrictions being reimposed on businesses and social gatherings by a number of states and local governments.

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