Despite the surge in the new COVID-19 Omicron variant that is especially prominent in Florida, the number of new unemployment claims during the week that ended on December 25th was the lowest since before the pandemic during the same time period in 2019.
According to a news release by the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL), the number of initial unemployment claims in Florida for that week was only 3,982 – down 1,178 from 5,160 the week before.
The numbers from the week of the 25th would also make the four-week average number of claims approximately 5,347 – 29 fewer claims than the four-week average prior to the week of March 15th, 2020, which the USDOL officially marks as the beginning of the pandemic for unemployment claim purposes. The four-week average prior to the week that ended on March 15th, 2020, was 5,376.
Within that first week of the pandemic, however, the number of new unemployment claims jumped to 74,313, and reached its peak a month later with 506,670 claims for the week ending April 18th, 2020.
While the pandemic initially led some businesses to shut down and others to scale back, Governor Ron DeSantis is credited for much of the state’s steady job growth recovery because of his efforts in keeping Florida “open” and allocating funds to the program known as the Florida Job Growth Fund (FJGF).
The FJGF is established through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) and funds projects that focus on rapidly developing a highly-skilled workforce and on infrastructure initiatives that attract businesses, create jobs, and promote economic growth.
In a press conference on December 9th, discussing Florida’s job growth and pre-pandemic numbers of weekly unemployment claims, DeSantis stated, “We’ve been able to apply that [FJGF] for some really significant infrastructure projects across the state. … That’s going to have a profound impact on our ability to continue to expand our manufacturing base, our logistics.”
More specifically, in a press conference from October highlighting the types of projects and jobs created, DeSantis stated:
“We have a great business environment for (manufacturing). … We also have probably the strongest commitment in the country, since I’ve been governor, to vocational education and skills-based training. … We’re training people to be able to get skills that are immediately marketable in the economy right now. You know, everything from welding, to aircraft maintenance, to the commercial vehicle drivers.”
While data showing the unemployment rate for December is not yet available, the unemployment rate for November 2021 was 4.5% – .1% lower than the rate in October, according to the DEO.
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Casey Owens is a contributing writer for The Florida Capital Star. Follow him on Twitter at @cowensreports. Email tips to [email protected]