Florida jobless claims down last week

21,780 new unemployment applications filed in Florida during week ending Dec. 12
A Marshalls retail store displays a Now Hiring sign during the new coronavirus pandemic, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Miami.
Posted at 2:27 PM, Dec 17, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — First-time jobless claims dropped last week in Florida, as the state is set to issue a monthly report Friday that will detail unemployment data amid a rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 cases.

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The U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday estimated 21,780 new unemployment applications were filed in Florida during the week that ended Dec. 12, down 25 percent from a revised projection for the previous week.

The estimates also showed Florida jobless claims down slightly from mid-November and down significantly from mid-October.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity will release a November monthly report Friday, and the federal estimates could be a sign that the state’s unemployment rate will tick down further as Gov. Ron DeSantis fends off calls to impose a statewide mask mandate and other restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19.

With vaccine delivery getting underway this week, DeSantis traveled to West Palm Beach on Tuesdayand said Florida won’t support the closure of businesses, particularly restaurants, because of the pandemic.

"We're coming up on Christmas, it's an important time of year for a lot of people, and we just want to let people know if you're somebody who's working hard, you're a worker in one of these industries, we're standing with you 100 percent," DeSantis said while at Okeechobee Steakhouse in West Palm Beach.

DeSantis made the comments on the same day that Florida reported 11,541 additional cases of COVID-19, continuing a spike of thousands of new cases each day. The state this week also exceeded 20,000 resident deaths since the pandemic started.

While Florida saw a decrease last week in jobless claims, unemployment applications nationwide increased to 885,000, up from 862,000 during the week that ended Dec. 5. That came amid a surge in COVID-19 cases across the country.

The national unemployment rate for November inched down to 6.7 percent, from 6.9 percent. That decrease was credited primarily to a large number of workers leaving the labor force.

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Florida had a 6.5 percent unemployment rate in October, reflecting 659,000 Floridians qualified as unemployed out of a workforce of 10.109 million. That rate was down from 7.2 percent in September.

In October, the state was averaging just under 40,000 first-time claims a week. For the weeks ending Nov. 14 and Nov. 21, the state drew an estimated 24,358 and 26,931 new claims, respectively, according to the Department of Labor.

The federal agency initially estimated Florida received 25,012 new unemployment applications during the week that ended Dec. 5 but punched the figure up to 29,142 in its estimates issued Thursday.

Since mid-March, the state Department of Economic Opportunity, which administers Florida’s unemployment system, has received 4.71 million “confirmed unique” claims and has paid out more than $19.36 billion --- most of it federal money --- to people who have lost jobs.

The peak unemployment for Florida was in April, when the jobless rate was 13.8 percent and an estimated 1.1 million Floridians were out of work, many in the travel and leisure industries, which continue to struggle.