Initial unemployment claims totaled 6.6 million for the week ending April 4 across the nation, and 169,885 in Florida. In the last three weeks, initial claims have totaled 16.8 million in a labor force of 163 million. The number exceeds the total number of job losses over two years during the Great Recession more than a decade ago.
The 16.8 million claims equate to an unemployment rate of 10.3 percent, a rate never reached during the Great Recession, when it peaked at 10 percent. The higher rate was last seen in March 1983, when the rate peaked at 10.8 percent during that recession. The current downturn is expected to dwarf those numbers and approach those of the Great Depression as the coronavirus pandemic’s economic crisis deepens.
Weekly filings in Florida were down from last week’s 227,000 claims, after filings of 74,000 claims the week before. The three-week total of new claims, at 471,000, compares to 291,000 unemployed Floridians in the last unemployment report, before the crisis struck, when the February unemployment rate stood at 2.8 percent. Based on figures released this morning by the U.S. Department of Labor, Florida now has almost 800,000 unemployed people. If the unemployment rate were calculated today, it would be 7.3 percent. Thousands more are expected to file for unemployment. The figures are not broken down by county.
The lower number of claims in Florida this week may not be an accurate reflection of lessening strains, but rather appears to be a reflection of system failures at the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s website, where outdated eligibility criteria and overwhelming demand has locked out tens of thousands of applicants. Several other state systems have also been overwhelmed.
Until Wednesday night, when a new website went live, Florida’s unemployment site still reflected Rick Scott-era rules and criteria, when benefits had been cut from $7,150 over 26 weeks to $3,300 over 12 weeks, and when recipients had to prove that they were searching for work to qualify, even though Gov. Ron DeSantis has suspended those rules. Florida’s system–among the stingiest in the nation–was struggling to accommodate $600-a-week unemployment checks included in the latest federal stimulus bill. Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Ken Lawson publicly apologized last week to applicants.
The department is allowing paper applications, and FedEx is making paper unemployment-compensation applications available at about 100 sites in the state, including the Palm Coast region.
Nationally, the four-week average of weekly unemployment claims increased to 4.3 million. So-called “continued” claims have increased to 7.4 million, exceeding the high of the Great Recession, when continued claims peaked at 6.6 million.
The CareerSource of Flagler Volusia has resources available to help with the unemployment application process.
If you are having technical difficulties with the CONNECT system, you can call a LOCAL number or HELP in Volusia or Flagler Counties. 386-323-7052 There are 11 staff fielding calls to this line. If you get voicemail, LEAVE a message and your call will be returned.
You can also find technical tips on their Facebook Page (all posts with a blue background are related to the Reemployment Assistance process).
Due to issues with the CONNECT website, paper applications for unemployment are being accepted. CareerSource has printed copies of the application (English and Spanish) and addressed/stamped envelopes available for pick up outside their office in Flagler (20 Airport Road, Suite E, Bunnell, in the Chamber of Commerce Building)
If your organization would like to provide paper copies to your customers, contact Christine Sikora at [email protected] or 386-323-7082.