Florida’s new unemployment claims drop even as businesses lay off hundreds

David Lyons, South Florida Sun Sentinel
·4 min read

Florida’s first-time unemployment claims trended downward for the second straight week as the private sector continued to add back jobs in the face of rising numbers of coronavirus cases.

The state had 67,070 claims for the week ended July 4, a decline of 17,300 for the previous week, the U.S. Department of Labor reported on Thursday. No claims were processed on the Fourth of July holiday.

Across the country, there were 1,314,000 new jobless claims, the Labor Department said, a decrease of 99,000 from the previous week.

Still, analysts warned that the continuous drop in first-time weekly claims does not mean the economy is out of danger. First-time claims have topped 1 million for 14 straight weeks as states worked to catch up on backlogged jobless applications and businesses have struggled to restart operations as COVID-19 cases continued to spike.

“New claims have dropped for 14 straight weeks despite the uneven nature of COVID-19 restrictions and the outbreak itself,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economics analyst for Bankrate. “Even so, with more bankruptcies and job cuts announced in the retail sector, for example, the economy remains at significant risk in the weeks and months ahead.”

In Florida, the rate of new coronavirus cases continued to stymie the orderly return of business as many owners concluded they could not recall their entire rosters of workers amid surging infection rates. Higher case numbers have again forced local governments to impose restrictions on hours and the numbers of customers who can be served at one time.

In South Florida, Miami-Dade County ordered restaurants this week to close their indoor dining rooms while allowing service to continue outside. Broward County stopped short of following suit, but did order 10 p.m. closures and restrictions on the number of people who can be served at indoor tables.

Hotels such as the Boca Raton Resort & Club in Boca Raton and Fontainebleau in Miami Beach informed the state that hundreds of their workers will remain on the sidelines, possibly into the fall, because the coronavirus pandemic is not close to being contained. The Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood extended the furloughs of 915 workers last week because “we did not and could not have foreseen how broadly and deeply the COVID-19 pandemic would spread and affect our business,” the hotel said in a WARN Notice filing with the state.

Some businesses decided to throw in the towel. Chuck’s Steak House, the venerable Fort Lauderdale restaurant founded 46 years ago, announced it will close its doors early next month.

The upshot is more unemployment claims to be filed with the Department of Economic Opportunity, which said that as of Wednesday that more than 1,65 million people have received nearly $9.1 billion in state and federal unemployment benefits since mid-March. Most of that money is from federal programs, The most notable program — a $600 weekly payment to supplement the state payout of $275 a week — ends on July 31.

May-June lift in private sector

The jobless claims reports came one day after ADP, the payroll processing giant, reported that private sector employment rose by 2.369 million from May to June, with increases in every major sector but one: information.

Nationally, the hospitality and leisure sector added 966,000 jobs, while small businesses — those that employ between 1 to 49 people — added 937,000 jobs. Trade, transportation and utilities added 288,000 jobs, ADP said. Construction was up by 394,000 jobs.

“Small business hiring picked up in the month of June,” said Ahu Yildirmaz, vice president and co-head of the ADP Research Institute, said in a statement Wednesday. “As the economy slowly continues to recover, we are seeing a significant rebound in industries that once experienced the greatest job losses. In fact, 70 percent of the jobs added this month were in the leisure and hospitality, trade and construction industries.”

Still, it remains to be seen whether the consumer service industries can withstand continuing spikes in coronavirus cases in Florida and other Sun Belt states without laying off workers to keep operating.

The large South Florida hotels projecting layoffs through the summer and beyond have been joined by airlines such as United Airlines, which told employees this week that 36,000 of the carrier’s work force will soon receive furlough notices. Delta Air Lines has told its workers to expect a smaller airline later this year. And American Airlines, which maintain are major domestic and international hub at Miami International Airport, has advised workers that it may have 20,000 more people on its payroll than it need.

In retailing, the venerable Brooks Brothers, maker of fancy men’s suits, became the latest chain of stores to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.


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