By Team

TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Newly filed unemployment claims continue to slow in Florida, with the state recording its lowest weekly total since the COVID-19 pandemic crashed into the economy in March 2020.

The U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday estimated 5,946 new claims were filed in Florida during the week that ended July 3, down from a revised count of 6,917 during the week that ended June 26.

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Nationally, 373,000 new claims were filed last week, up 2,000 from the previous week’s revised count.

The department last week said the national unemployment rate in June was 5.9 percent, up from 5.8 percent in May. The increase in the rate came as more people returned to the workforce, with 850,000 jobs added nationally in June.

The estimate of claims filed last week in Florida was the lowest total since 5,325 claims were filed during the first week of March 2020.

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For unemployment purposes, the state Department of Economic Opportunity marks the start of the pandemic as March 15, 2020. The state recorded 74,313 jobless claims during the week that ended March 21, 2020, and claims continued surging to a peak of 506,670 during the week that ended April 18, 2020.

During the past four weeks, Florida has averaged 7,607 new claims a week. In June, the state restarted a “work search” requirement for people in the unemployment system and stopped providing $300 a week in federal assistance on top of state benefits.

State officials contended that the moves would help spur people to return to the workforce, though critics said the reduction in federal assistance would hurt many people who continue to struggle during the pandemic.

The state’s unemployment rate stood at 4.9 percent in May, reflecting 503,000 people qualifying as out of work from a workforce of 10.24 million. A June unemployment report will be issued on July 16.

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