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Unemployment claims in Florida increase by 180%

The Center Square – After weeks of lower-than-expected reporting numbers, initial unemployment claims for the week ending April 18 jumped 180 percent in Florida.

According to data released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor, based on estimates provided by the state, initial unemployment claims in Florida last week were 505,137, up 324,718 from the 180,419 claims filed the previous week.

Last week’s estimated figure pushes the number of new unemployment claims in Florida to more than 1 million over the past five weeks.

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The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) said earlier this week as many as 800,000 unemployment applications, including some that could be duplicate claims, are waiting to be processed, and there could be tens of thousands more who have been foiled in their attempts to file claims after the DEO was overwhelmed and its system paralyzed by the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through Wednesday, DEO’s claim tracker dashboard showed 679,179 confirmed unique claims had been filed, 193,405 processed and nearly 16 percent, or 108,216, had been paid, with recipients receiving $143.275 million.

Over the three-day span, the DEO processed more than 31,370 claims and paid more than 68,000, a significant increase in proficiency after the agency’s near-collapse when it was overwhelmed with applicants in the pandemic’s early stages.

Gov. Ron DeSantis allocated at least $100 million to upgrade DEO’s website, purchased 100 servers to boost capacity, reassigned up to 2,000 state workers to help it process applicants and answer questions, and tapped Department of Management Services Secretary Jon Satter to manage the system.

According to DEO, through Wednesday, 66,842 unemployment claims had been filed in Miami-Dade County, 51,981 in Broward County, 45,871 in Orange County, 33,423 in Palm Beach County, 29,903 in Hillsborough County and 24,160 in Pinellas County.

Hotel and food-service workers have filed the most claims, 115,313, DEO reported. Administrative, support and waste management workers have filed 49,403 claims, retail employees 41,364 claims, and health care and social assistance workers 39,891 claims.

The second-largest occupational claim category was “none given” at 94,523, which could be gig workers, self-employed and others ineligible for the state’s unemployment program but who qualify for federal unemployment assistance under provisions in the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Over the past five weeks, 26 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits because of stay-at-home orders in response to the novel coronavirus.

Note: The Center Square contributor John Haughey contributed to this report.

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