New jobless filings in Florida are back on the decline as economic picture improves

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Improving jobless benefits data show Florida’s economic recovery appears back in full swing.

After seeing sporadic increases earlier this spring, new applications for unemployment assistance in Florida fell for the third straight week, the U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday. For the week ending May 8, new jobless claims fell from 19,765 to 14,872; barring a revision next week, that latest figure will represent a new pandemic low.

Nationally, new jobless claims declined by 34,000 to 473,000, itself a fresh pandemic low.

“The 34K drop in claims confirms that the previous week’s 83K drop was no fluke,” wrote Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, in a note to clients following Thursday morning’s release. “The trend now is strongly downwards, as the reopening allows firms to hold on to staff who would otherwise have been laid off.”

Travel, local and statewide, continues to pick up. The hotel occupancy rate for Florida has now improved to 67%, while in Miami occupancy sits at 72%. While both figures are below levels seen this same week in 2019, average daily rates are significantly higher than two years ago. In Florida, it is $152.12, compared with $142.72 seen this same week in 2019; in Miami, it is $221.77, compared with $186.50 in 2019.

While global travel remains constrained, daily passenger levels at Miami International Airport are now down only approximately 15% from their pre-pandemic levels. That compares with 25% just one month ago.

The problem for many sectors of the economy now is finding ready, willing and able workers. Many of the record-high job openings the U.S. now sees are going unfilled, causing some states to re-evaluate their approach to unemployment assistance. In Florida, where an unemployed worker can earn as much as $575 a week, equivalent to $14.38 an hour, the pre-pandemic job search requirement is being reinstated; a benefits filer must now show they have applied to five jobs a week.

Other states, including Arkansas, Mississippi, Montana, and South Carolina, have signaled they would be ending their participation in federal pandemic benefits entirely. It was not immediately clear whether Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had plans to take similar action.

“The apparent difficulty firms are having when trying to recruit people is another incentive to keep staff, if possible, because hiring them back later might prove impossible or expensive,” Shepherdson continued. “Claims remain well above normal — 300K-ish — but they’ll be there soon if the current trend rate of decline, about 25-to-30K per week, continues.”

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