(SS) Fewer Floridians filed for unemployment last week than in any week since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Claims for the week ended Sept. 26 fell by 9,608 to 29,360, the first time claims have fallen below 30,000 since March. Nationally, initial claims declined by 36,000 to 837,000, the U.S Department of Labor reported Thursday.
Initial jobless claims have remained at high levels since mid-March. But they are considerably below the six million-plus filed when new COVID-19 infections topped out last spring. Job growth in the private sector was better than expected in September, the payroll processing firm ADP reported Wednesday.
“Across the states, it was a mixed picture with declines in Florida, New York, Texas and Georgia, and claims increases in Nevada, New Jersey and Illinois,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.
As jobs slowly have been added back to the economy, Florida’s unemployment rate for August dipped to 7.4%, and South Florida’s three counties have seen theirs decline below 10%.
Although unemployment claims have eased, employees in the hospitality, leisure and transportation industries girded for massive layoffs between October and December, which in turn could trigger a surge of new claims in Florida and elsewhere around the nation.
“In recent days, there’s been word of combined thousands of job cuts beyond some of the usual suspects, in terms of sectors where job loss has been common," Hamrick said. "These companies include Disney, Allstate and Goldman Sachs, even as the airlines stand to shed thousands of workers if aid is not forthcoming. This underscores the significant risk in the coming weeks and months of more widely shared pain resulting from pandemic related constraints.”
American and United Airlines started laying off 19,000 and 13,400 employees respectively Thursday after Congress failed to extend a payroll protection program that preserved thousands of industry jobs. The first day of October has loomed as a key date for the airline industry as it is the first day airlines may lay off employees after receiving a collective $25 billion in government aid since late March.
In an email, a spokeswoman for American in Miami, where the airline maintains a large U.S. and international hub, said 2,000 of the airline’s South Florida workers are affected. Earlier, United had informed the state that more than 500 of its employees would lose their jobs.
Meanwhile, just one day after Walt Disney World announced it intends to lay off 28,000 workers in Florida and California, multiple companies filed notices with the state saying that more than 6,500 would lose their jobs starting Dec. 4 at various locations in the Orlando area.
In South Florida, more layoffs were telegraphed this week by companies in the retail and hospitality industries.
Victoria’s Secret, the lingerie retailer that operates an outlet at the Sawgrass Mills mall in Sunrise, notified the state that 99 store employees would be permanently laid off on Nov. 28.
In Miami, the Crowne Plaza Miami Airport hotel near Miami International Airport said it is laying off 55 people starting Nov. 30 due to the pandemic and the termination of the management company’s contract.
As of Tuesday, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity said it had paid more than $16.8 billion in state and federal benefits to just over 2 million people since late March, with most of the money coming from Washington.
David Lyons is a business writer for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. He is a past editor-in-chief of ALM’s Daily Business Review in Miami and formerly worked for the Miami Herald, Miami News, Fort Lauderdale News, Albany (N.Y.) Times-Union and Schenectady Gazette.