Florida’s unemployment rate in March was flat, at 4.7 percent, and Flagler County’s was nearly so, at 5.3 percent, a slight increase from February’s revised rate of 4.9 percent. The increase is statistically insignificant given the county’s rate over the past six months: but for a dip during the holiday season, it’s hovered between 5.3 and 5.8 percent.
The March rate in Flagler ticked up not because that many more people are unemployed–there was an increase of just 220 people without work, for a total of 2,538–but because the workforce grew by nearly 500 as more people join the workforce or the county continues to attract working-age residents. The workforce totaled 47,741 in March, but remains 1,400 people short of where it was a year ago. Almost 500 people fewer are without jobs today than in March 2020, when the pandemic’s effects was beginning to ramp up.
Some local officials, members of the business community and, today, Gov. Ron DeSantis, are without evidence other than anecdotal, attributing a dearth of job-takers to the claim that workers are staying home to cash in on unemployment benefits. While some workers have in all periods taken advantage of unemployment benefits, the claim is largely false, especially in Florida, and has frequently been debunked, but continues to gain currency from baseless repetition or ideological malice.
Able workers cannot choose to be unemployed and receive benefits. It’s not a matter of choice, but of eligibility. As a Brookings Institution paper on the matter concludes, the assertion that workers are making more money on unemployment than at work “is patently false.”
“Under the CARES Act as in regular UI,” Brookings reported, referring to unemployment insurance rules that have been extended to the current stimulus package,” an employer can ask an employee that they previously laid off (or reduced hours for) to return to work. If the employee refuses to return, they will lose their eligibility to collect UI benefits unless they meet” federal or state criteria. Failing that, they can be prosecuted for fraud.
Florida unemployment benefits are among the stingiest in the nation, topping off at $275 a week, and lasting a maximum of 12 weeks, though the eligibility window was extended at the end of last year by 11 weeks. That window closes on March 14. To be eligible, the state also sets up onerous conditions, including contacting at least five prospective employers a week, reporting to a local career center for reemployment services and participating in “reemployment” services, along with maintaining reporting requirements to the Department of Employment Opportunity. The requirements play a role in keeping workers on the sidelines, artificially depressing the official unemployment rate.
The federal government’s supplemental $600-a-week unemployment checks last year were intended to offset broad-based job losses across the country. That benefit may have had a more substantial hand in keeping workers home, though at the time health officials didn’t mind: it was a way to limit the spread of the virus. But it ran out in July. Another round of supplemental, federal benefits, at $300 a week, rolled out late last year and was extended by the latest stimulus package to last until September. Working part-time or temporarily does not necessarily end the benefits in Florida, but reduces them.
Even assuming that unemployment checks somehow would encourage workers to stay home, the claim is discredited on its face, especially in Florida, given the stinginess of the benefits. The maximum benefit a worker can get currently is $575 (before taxes). The unemployment rate is 4.7 percent. Vermont has a much more generous unemployment insurance benefit of up to 39 weeks, and a maximum benefit of $531 a week, or $831 a week when combined with federal benefits–an annualized wage of $43,200 that should theoretically encourage Vermont workers to stay home in droves. Yet Vermont’s unemployment rate, at 2.9 percent, is tied for lowest in the nation.
The Florida Legislature is considering raising the state’s weekly maximum benefit by $100, to $375. Gov. Ron DeSantis today spoke in opposition to the proposal, again repeating falsehoods about higher benefits keeping workers home. “Increase benefits? Look, no, I mean, I think we’re getting people back to work,” he told a reporter in Lakeland, according to the News Service of Florida. “You see or hear the stories, there’s businesses (that) need more. You know, our goal is to get people back to work. I think there’s a lot of demand right now.”
Florida’s latest unemployment figures represent 475,000 people out of work from a workforce of 10.17 million. The number of people out of work grew by 1,000 from February, while the workforce size increased by 46,000, the News Service reports. The workforce size is still down 460,000 from where it stood in March 2020, according to the department’s figures.
Florida’s March 2021 Unemployment Report:
James M. Mejuto says
It’s the same old Republican crap that working class people would rather stay home than apply and get a job.
I guess minimum pay $8.75 hr. would be an ideal job to return. At least that’s what gov,ron de santis is inferring.
There is also news that maybe employers who were getting away with not paying their workers what they are
worth, might now have to increase the sick wages just to get then to return.
Now, the Democrat argument: Pay your workers a livable wage with decent benefits !
DeSantis hide Covid Virus deaths and now this, he takes lessons from # 45 that did the same thing. Not someone you can trust for sure.
Wonder if DeSantis or Rick Scott could live on 275.00 per week unemployment the lowest rate in the US? People do not enjoy being on unemployment walk in their shoes and then let us know how it feels.
DeSantis is not for the regular people just like his idol.
This “largely false” article is “LARGELY FALSE”…… We have had opening all through the pandemic, can’t get people to come in to interview and have had some who have come in and told us, “I’m just looking now. I don’t want to lose my unemployment and other assistance”. This is just not here locally in Flagler. Talking with customers all over the US, they are in the same boat. They cannot find people to even come in for an interview. So it is either the media as fueled the hysteria of the pandemic, because you know… “FEAR SELLS”… and people are sitting at home wearing 3 masks and afraid to go outside or people would rather sit at home and take the hand out. Most likely a combination of both of these.
Keep drinking the Orange Koolaid cuz that’s FREE. RonDon wouldn’t know the Truth if it kicked him in the ass. He continues to hide and ignore Data and or Bully. If People are scared they have a Right to be. The GOP Big Lie continues under his auspices
Yes @steve if you want to be scared please stay home and wear 3 masks. You will be safer there. Thankfully we have a governor who took care of the most vulnerable first, didn’t send people with covid back to nursing homes and kept us open. Go look at the numbers…. really look at them objectively. The DATA does not lie…. The FEAR mongering was and is out of control. Because FEAR sells and the sheep follow. Turn off your TV and live your life. You and all of us deserve that.
Ray W. says
Fredrick proclaims his belief that the article is largely false, even though the author points out that those driving the unemployment narrative rely largely on anecdotal evidence to prove their claims. Fredrick then provides anecdotal evidence to prove his claim. The irony apparently escapes Fredrick.
Fredrick argues that throughout the pandemic, he has had openings he cannot fill, as have several of his friends, who tell him that they cannot even get people to come in. I am reminded of a story a client shared with me about his employer at a funeral home and cemetery business. He said his boss kept a stock help wanted ad with the News-Journal: “Backhoe operator wanted. Minimum wage. No raises.” My client insisted it was true and said it was currently in the paper. I went to the jobs section and, sure enough, there it was. My client said, someone always took the job, but they didn’t last long, but the ad was cheap and someone else was always just around the corner. Fredrick insists that people tell him they are just looking and that they are not interested in working. Perhaps the better explanation is that, after hearing Fredrick’s offer, they are telling him in code language that they are not interested in working for him, using the unemployment benefits excuse as a polite deception. After all, Fredrick says its been a year and he just can’t seem to find employees no matter how hard he tries. If a spouse can deceive another spouse just before a divorce is announced, it stands to reason that a prospective employee can be deceptive to a prospective employer. Yes, I handled a number of divorce cases until I accepted the idea that civil cases sometimes involve people who are far less civil than those involved in criminal cases. I referred the divorce cases to other lawyers and kept the criminal defense work. Nicer clients, but that is just another anecdote.
Fredrick’s insistence on using anecdotal evidence to attempt to prove a general rule is similar to the effort by tobacco industry experts who kept pointing out that some heavy smokers lived into their nineties without getting cancer. Other smokers latched onto that argument as if the anecdotal evidence disproved the science. It didn’t, but its an old trick that keeps being recycled.
Michael Cocchiola says
“Patently false”? What does that mean to DeSantis and his cohorts? They don’t do studies, analyses, facts, reality. It’s whatever satisfies their baked in beliefs and political agenda. They are social criminals.
Sad Times says
Same ole…same ole….Republicans. You don’t have facts…so the best thing to do…is to lie. That’s the activity in which you appear to excel.
Most people want to work…your ideas for the salaries of lower level jobs are so ludicrous….no one can make a living with just one job. During this pandemic, finding a first job is extremely hard….let alone trying to get a second job.
If you Republicans actually walked in the shoes of the poor….and truly lived their life for a month…my guess…you may have learned something. Until you do so….I don’t believe your stupidities.
@Don’t you just hate a dead-beat?
BS I know of at least 20 people who are staying to make more on UI.
Tell that to Oceanside in Flagler and the hotels in Daytona.
Lil Bird says
Exactly! Some jobs pay more, just like some services cost more. Drs or mechanics or like who offer specialized skills & services because of years of training will make more money per hour than baggers, hotel desk workers or those stacking mulch at Home Depot. Current benefits ($300 + $275) allow average 30 hr a week worker $19/hr to play PlayStation all week. That’s the fact. As a result actual businesses get hundreds of meaningless applications but nobody shows up for interviews or for first day of work as requirement is to submit the application. The author of this article & most commenters obviously don’t own a retail or restaurant business otherwise they wouldn’t claim the problem is “anecdotal”
Ray W. says
Lil Bird has a good point. When I was in private practice, my lead secretarial assistant was with my father before me and then my brother and I for 37 years. Our second assistant was with us for over 10 years. Both were excellent assistants and I tried my best to keep them with the business. I left for a position in the High Crimes Unit of the Public Defender’s Office, mostly homicides, including death penalty work. There were and are only so many death penalty defendants who have the resources to hire private counsel and I wanted to do that type of work. I assert, based on anecdotal evidence, that I didn’t have the problems Lil Bird and Fredrick have, though I know a bit about small business.
As for knowledge of the restaurant industry, as a young man, prior to my college and law school years, I managed a kitchen in a very large restaurant as an 19 year old (record was just under 800 dinners on a holiday weekend night). Looking back, as I was responsible and hard working, I was asked to supervise up to 13 older employees, but on a salary and without overtime, the 60-65 hour weeks soon got old.
I left to work for a man who turned out to be a great boss at a full-service restaurant. He gave me all the overtime I wanted, because I made him money. I soon managed that line, but the boss managed all the ordering, etc. Nice to control a kitchen without having to handle all the little details. The highest compliment any line cook can receive is watching the boss come in with next week’s schedule, trailed by a line of waitresses who looked for my day off, if I took one, and ran out to ask the head waitress for that day off. They knew they made more money when I worked. That boss had very little turnover, so he didn’t have much problem with employee shortages, either. When we did have an opening, the boss would initially interview the prospective kitchen help, then hand them over to me. I would then explain that we did not allow cursing in the kitchen. If the prospect felt the need to curse, he or she needed to tell me, and I would tell the boss to keep looking. Waitress after waitress commented that our kitchen was the best they ever worked in. They made money and weren’t demeaned by the kitchen help.
My boss helped me through college and law school, so when I graduated, I told him I didn’t want to think I had a second job or be on a schedule, but I would work any day he wanted if he would just give me 45 minutes notice to locate a baby sitter, if I needed one, as my wife at the time worked in the service industry. I worked there for 17 years, nine after graduating from law school. My boss would call me in to work race weeks, Spring Break, July 4th, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and days when someone got hurt or called in sick. I owed him a debt of gratitude and did my best to repay it.
My point is that if people treat others correctly and pay decently, they don’t have some of the problems other people have. But if the business model calls for indifference towards others or outright exploitation, maybe problems are not far away. Ever.
Great analysis Ray W.! It’s very, very simple. . . if all employers would pay a “living wage and benefits” and create a safe and healthy work place, they could find plenty of people willing to work.
Many of the scut work jobs going lacking were previously filled by undocumented (illegal) immigrants paid cash “under the table”. Republicans want to have it both ways. They want trump’s wall at the border to keep (cheap labor) immigrants out, but they do not want to pay a decent wage for American citizens to take over those “go nowhere” jobs.
Ray W. says
As an addendum, Lil Bird has a good point, but a valid point only get you into the argument; it doesn’t mean you win it. In a good, better, best/bad, worse, worst world (the form of logic called argumentation), Lil Bird can have a good point and still lose the overall argument. That’s just a fact of life.