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Florida unemployment claims drop below pre-pandemic numbers

Posted at 6:37 PM, Aug 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-13 15:36:31-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — For the last year or so, ”Help Wanted” and “Sorry, We’re Closed” signs have been hanging in windows of your favorite stores and restaurants.

Tom Smythe, Finance Professor at Florida Gulf Coast University calls it a reminder of the nationwide worker shortage.

“There are many more jobs out there, than there are people to fill them,” he said. “It’s probably one of the first times in 25 or 30 years.”

Research from Wallet Hub shows Florida unemployment claims were significantly lower the week of August 2, 2021, compared to the same week in 2019.

Nationwide claims have dropped, too. At the height of the pandemic, more than six million people applied for unemployment. Last week there were 375,000 new claims - putting employees in the driver’s seat of the workforce, according to Smythe.

“The big things that would be negotiated would be salary or dollars per hour,” he said.

Many employers are offering sign-on bonuses, even those that traditionally, like dollar tree offering a $1,000 to new hires. Local restaurants and resorts have also offered extra cash to new employees.

But Smythe says don’t get complacent; it wont’ be a worker’s market forever. So, think about how you can remain valuable to an employer.

“And that is likely going to require enhancing your skillset,” he said.

He says it’ll take quite some time for the supply of workers to catch up with the high demand of labor. Smythe says how long is still unknown.

Even with the Delta variant and a surge in COVID-19 cases, Smythe doesn’t see unemployment claims going back as high as they were.

“I don’t think you’re going to see people saying I’m not going to go back to work. In many cases they may not have that choice. The fact that they were out of work for so long,” he said.

Florida saw the biggest decline in unemployment claims last week compared to 2019. Most states saw an increase.

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