TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Florida had more than 173,000 first-time unemployment claims last week as it prepared for a soft reopening Monday of restaurants and retailers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The 173,191 new claims for the week ending May 2, an estimate by the U.S. Department of Labor, was a sharp decline from the 433,103 first-time claims during the week ending April 25 and 506,670 new claims during the week ending April 17.

The state had provided the estimates for the weeks ending April 17 and April 25.

Large parts of the state’s economy shut down or scaled back in March to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Governor Ron DeSantis approved the first phase of an economic reopening that started Monday for businesses such as restaurants and retailers.

From March 15 to Tuesday, the state Department of Economic Opportunity reported receiving more than 1.8 million unemployment claims, of which more than 1.1 million were considered “unique.” The difference was due to duplicates or incomplete paperwork. Of the unique claims, nearly 770,000 had been processed as of Tuesday, with 481,497 deemed eligible for state benefits of up to $275 a week.

The other 345,180 had been put in what the state describes as a “verification queue” because of issues involving “fraud detection,” questions about employers and wages, people being from out of state and issues of identity.

The new weekly estimate for Florida was among roughly 3.17 million claims filed nationally during the week ending May 2, according to the federal agency. The national unemployment rate of 4.4 percent in March will be updated Friday. Florida, with a 4.3 percent jobless rate in March, will update its unemployment figures on May 22.

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