First-time unemployment claims in Florida continued to slow during the week that ended Oct. 24, though a survey indicates small businesses remain concerned about a sluggish recovery during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a report released Oct. 29, the U.S. Department of Labor estimated 30,874 new jobless claims were filed in Florida during the week that ended Oct. 24, down from 40,070 a week earlier. Nationally, initial claims fell 5 percent.
The Labor Department weekly report also came as the U.S. Department of Commerce issued economic-growth numbers last week showing the country has made up a portion of the losses caused by the pandemic.
Florida had fewer initial unemployment claims last week than many other large states. California had 152,057 initial applications, while Illinois had 54,819, New York had 52,283, Massachusetts had 47,202, Georgia had 43,362, and Texas had 33,757.
The Labor Department report revised upward Florida’s first-time claims for the week ending Oct. 17. That number went from an originally reported 35,960 to 40,070.
The slowing of new claims comes despite a surge in coronavirus cases nationally, Congress being unable to reach agreement on an economic-stimulus package and Florida’s key hospitality and leisure industries seemingly a long way from recovering.
Comcast Corp., the parent company of Universal theme parks, on Oct. 29 reported third-quarter revenue at its parks down 80.9 percent from the prior year, with California parks still closed and facilities in Orlando and Japan open at limited capacity.
Meanwhile, a survey of small business owners and operators released last week by the Florida Chamber Foundation found the pandemic impacting staffing levels at all but just 14 percent of the businesses and 45.4 percent remaining concerned about their ability to operate in the future.
“The results of the survey indicated that the majority of Florida’s small businesses have been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and these impacts pose negative implications both for their business and Florida’s economy,” according to the report, which was conducted with the Florida Small Business Development Center Network and the University of West Florida Haas Center.
The report added that while the “economy slowly begins to improve, the challenges faced by small businesses will likely linger for years to come.”
Many of the nearly 5,000 small business owners and leaders contacted for the survey indicated they are struggling financially, with 85.1 percent saying they had lost revenue, 59.4 percent saying they had to add costs to meet public safety requirements, and 39.6 percent struggling with disruptions in their supply chains.
“The transportation industry continued to suffer from COVID-19, as airlines restricted travel, and connections across the supply chain were temporarily halted,” the report stated. “The lack of access to goods and services quickly affected other industries in need of supplies and forced business owners to adopt new business models. Unfortunately, for some businesses, this meant employee layoffs, exhausting savings, or even permanent closure.
The survey was conducted in August, when 30 percent of business owners reported their operations remained suspended, with 74.4 percent either voluntarily shut down or forced to close in the spring when the virus hit the state.
On average, businesses that shut down were closed for 9.9 weeks. Businesses that depended on in-person operations or that were deemed “nonessential” had longer closures than those that could operate remotely.
Businesses that were most affected were in the categories of arts, entertainment and recreation, transportation and warehousing, educational services, real estate, rental and leasing, and accommodation and food services.
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, addressing an annual meeting of Florida TaxWatch on Oct. 29, said state lawmakers need to enact liability protections from coronavirus-related lawsuits to give “businesses the extra confidence to move forward without the fear of being punished.”
The state’s unemployment rate in September was 7.6 percent, up from 7.3 percent in August.