Florida unemployment claims up slightly last week

Florida had a slight uptick in first-time jobless claims last week, as the U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday reported 1.48 million initial unemployment applications nationally.

Florida had an estimated 93,394 claims during the week that ended June 20. That was up from 88,148 the prior week, as the second phase of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ economic reopening effort has showed signs of slowing amid increases in coronavirus cases, local governments starting to impose mandatory face-mask requirements and some recently reopened businesses requiring renewed cleaning after employees and customers tested positive.

The state Department of Economic Opportunity announced Friday that the state’s May unemployment rate was 14.5 percent, representing 1.412 million Floridians out of work from a labor force of nearly 9.71 million. A June rate will be announced July 17.

Florida’s 93,394 claims filed last week trailed only the 287,354 posted in California and the 124,283 in Georgia. New York had 90,186 claims, and Texas recorded 89,241. The numbers for Georgia, New York and Texas were all lower than in the prior week.

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The slight uptick in Florida followed two weeks of declining first-time claims. Since March 15, when the coronavirus pandemic began hammering the state, more than 2.64 million jobless applications have been filed, with 2.4 million considered “unique,” according to the Department of Economic Opportunity.

Of the unique claims, more than 2.31 million had been processed as of Tuesday, with nearly 1.54 million claimants paid. Another 475,806 had been ruled ineligible for state and federal benefits. The state administers federal benefits passed by Congress as part of an economic-stimulus plan.

The Department of Economic Opportunity had paid out $7.29 billion in Florida and federal benefits, of which $1.8 billion was state money.

Florida this month has seen a surge of new coronavirus cases, including a record-high 5,508 cases reported Wednesday. Several counties and cities have responded by approving mandatory mask orders to try to slow the spread of the virus.

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Universal Orlando, which had a limited reopening to the public earlier in June, confirmed this week an unspecified number of layoffs as it adjusted budgets in reaction to the virus.

Meanwhile, a petition drive has started for Walt Disney World to delay its planned reopening of the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom on July 11.

The Walt Disney Co. on Wednesday announced it would delay reopening its California theme parks, including Disneyland, which had been set to reopen July 17. Southern California also has seen a spike in cases.

“Given the time required for us to bring thousands of cast members back to work and restart our business, we have no choice but to delay the reopening of our theme parks and resort hotels until we receive approval from government officials,” Disney said in a statement late Wednesday.

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DeSantis has maintained his intention to continue moving forward with reopening efforts in Florida and on Wednesday pushed back against growing calls to implement a statewide mask requirement. He instead urged younger Floridians “to do your part” in not spreading the virus by following health recommendations regarding social distancing, hand cleaning and mask wearing.

But DeSantis said he also understood the desire of younger Florida to go out after largely staying home for weeks before the reopening.

“People naturally want to do things,” DeSantis said. “If I was 25, I’d be probably with them. I mean that’s just realistic. I can sit here and try to act like I wouldn’t, but I remember what it was like then.”

DeSantis has pushed for the resumption of professional sports in Florida. But Major League Baseball, which has announced plans to start games next month, has closed most camps in Florida after players tested positive for the virus, opting to have teams train in their home cities.

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And while Major League Soccer and the National Basketball Association plan to resume play in Orlando next month, a lesson for the leagues may have been presented by the Orlando Pride soccer team. On Monday, the Pride withdrew from the National Women’s Soccer League’s upcoming Challenge Cup tournament in Utah after six players and four staff members tested positive for the coronavirus. Tests traced the virus to a visit by some players to a bar in Orlando.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.