1st-time unemployment claims increase by 13 percent in Florida

First-time unemployment claims continue to increase in Florida, with an estimated 71,046 new applications coming in last week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The 13 percent increase from a revised count for the prior week would be the highest total for a single week since mid-August, when the state was still in the second phase of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ effort to reopen the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

From mid-November until the first week of January, the state averaged just under 27,000 new claims a week. During the week that ended Jan. 16, Florida had 39,226 claims, with the total growing to 62,818 during the week that ended Jan. 23.

The federal agency initially estimated 57,824 claims during the week that ended Jan. 23 but revised the number Thursday. The 71,046 claims were in the week that ended Jan. 30.

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As of Tuesday, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity had paid $21.5 billion in state and federal unemployment benefits to 2.22 million claimants since the pandemic slammed the state in mid-March.

As an example of the job losses that continue, Bergeron Land Development last week said 64 workers would be out of jobs starting April 7 as projects are completed in Fort Myers, Longwood, Indiantown and Venice.

"Bergeron has thoughtfully and carefully been managing through these unprecedented challenges as a direct result of both COVID-19 and its impact on our operations, as well as other ongoing declining business concerns," Bergeron Loss Control Director Martha Perez informed the Department of Economic Opportunity last week.

The state had a 6.1 percent unemployment rate in December, reflecting 614,000 Floridians qualified as being out of work from a workforce of more than 10.14 million. A January report is scheduled to be released March 15.

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Florida’s increase in weekly claims came as 779,000 new applications were filed last week nationally, down 33,000 from the prior week. Over the past month, the nation has averaged 848,250 new claims a week.

Tune in to FOX 35 Orlando for the latest Central Florida news.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.