New applications dip for jobless assistance in Florida — but are economic gains slowing?

Rob Wile
·2 min read

The number of new applications for jobless aid fell in Florida last week, the U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday — but there are already signs that the state’s impressive economic gains may be slowing.

For the week ending April 17, new jobless claims fell from 24,402 to 16,212. Yet the latest figure is above the pandemic low seen earlier this month of 15,025. And the number of so-called continuing claims, or those who have filed for unemployment for at least two consecutive weeks, continues to remain above 100,000. In the latest week, continuing claims fell from 129,186 to 113,419.

“Today’s Labor Department report underscores the significant distance remaining for the labor market to fully recover,” Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at the nonpartisan Century Foundation, said in a statement following Thursday morning’s release. He pointed out that there are still 17.4 million U.S. workers filing ongoing claims for benefits.

In its latest monthly jobs report, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity found no statistically significant monthly change in the number of unemployed workers, with about 475,000 still looking for a job in March. Further, Florida’s unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.7%, after having fallen every month since April 2020. The state’s leisure and hospitality sector is still down 236,000 jobs from March 2020.

Miami-Dade County’s unemployment climbed between February and March from 7.9% to 8.2%, even as its overall labor force continued to shrink. Economists agree that a gain in the unemployment rate can be healthy if the labor force is expanding. Broward County’s unemployment rate also climbed, from 5.1% to 5.3%.

PNC Economist Abbey Omondunbi said he is unconcerned by the latest state-level data, noting that although Florida’s labor force is still down 4.3% from a year ago, it expanded in March. He also said the state added 45,000 new jobs last month, the largest one-month increase since September.

“I expect very strong job growth in Florida over the course of 2021, particularly in the leisure and hospitality industry,” Omodunbi said in an email.