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Official Florida jobless claims rise by 326,000 — most of any state

Florida registered the largest increase in initial unemployment claims of any state for the week ending April 25, rising by 326,251 to a total of more than half a million, the U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday.

Meanwhile, more than 3.8 million unemployment claims were filed in the U.S. last week — a decline from last week’s figure of more than 4 million but another data point showing the economic crisis sparked by the coronavirus outbreak plunges onward.

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With the latest data release, some 30.3 million unemployment claims have been filed in the six weeks ended April 25th

Florida’s sharp increase is likely due to improvements in the state’s dysfunctional unemployment system. Despite repeated promises from the state, calls to the new, live help center remain unanswered, and many claimants are now getting “ineligible” messages. This week, the state announced that anyone who applied before April 5 must go through the entire process again.

Florida’s unemployment dashboard shows the number of unique claims as of April 28 at 835,290. That represents more than 9% of the state’s workforce. About 48% of those claimants have been paid. The federal release covers the period through April 25.

The latest jobless figures come after the U.S. announced its first quarter gross domestic product shrank for the first time since 2014, signaling the official start of a recession. The Q1 figure, -4.8%, is expected to plummet to as much as -30% in the second quarter.

White House projections show the unemployment rate could reach as high as 16%, a level not seen since the Great Depression.

The next federal unemployment release is slated for Friday, May 8.

Among Florida companies whose layoff announcements were made public this week were Doral-based Perry Ellis International, which announced layoffs of more than 300 workers; BIC Graphic North America, which also laid off more than 300; The Palms Hotel and Spa in Miami Beach, which laid off 230; and Hard Rock Cafes in Orlando and Hollywood, which together laid off about 700.

Unemployment claims could soon begin to taper following Gov. Ron DeSantis’s announced plan to begin reopening the state next week. It allows restaurants to open at 25% of capacity indoors, with outdoor seating available provided there is six-foot social distancing and parties restricted to 10 or fewer. Retail stores, museums and libraries would also reopen at 25% indoor capacity. Elective surgeries could also resume. The plan does not include Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, where the rate of infections remains high.

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