Florida sees decline in unemployment claims as state braces for layoffs
TALLAHASSEE --- Florida continues to see declines in first-time unemployment claims, even as the state braces for permanent layoffs over the next few months of workers --- many in tourism and hospitality jobs.
The U.S. Department of Labor announced an estimated 36,541 first-time unemployment claims in Florida during the week that ended Sept. 5, while 884,000 new applications were filed nationally --- a number that remained unchanged from the previous week.
The state’s latest number is down from an adjusted total of 45,590 first-time claims during the week that ended Aug. 29 and 51,647 claims during the week that ended Aug. 22. The federal agency initially estimated Florida had 39,335 claims during the week that ended Aug. 29.
The state peaked in first-time claims when it received 506,670 during the week that ended April 18, about a month after the pandemic caused businesses to begin closing down or dramatically scaling back.
While the number of claims has decreased in recent weeks, the state is anticipating at least 11,000 layoffs across the state to become permanent between now and the end of the year, according to filings with the state Department of Economic Opportunity.
Worker-adjustment and retraining notifications submitted to the department about upcoming layoffs include 1,527 positions at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood; 601 positions at Orlando World Center Marriott; 341 positions at Marriott Village Orlando; 295 positions at Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa in Manalapan; and 90 positions at the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club.
Thousands of jobs are also endangered at airports and with airlines across the state.
Notifications to the state department about layoffs include 567 United Airlines positions in Tampa and Orlando; 484 Frontier Airlines transportation and warehousing positions in Miami and Orlando; 224 Silver Airways positions in Tampa, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale; and 159 Republic Airways positions in Miami. Also, airport concession giant HMSHost anticipates 2,619 layoffs in Tampa, Sarasota, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, and Sky Chefs, an airline catering and hospitality service, has given notification of an expected 290 layoffs.
An August 31 Oxford Economic study, conducted on behalf of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, concluded the virus has affected 336,467 of 747,705 jobs linked in some way to the hotel industry in Florida.
However, the pending layoffs go beyond hospitality and air travel.
They also include 195 retail positions tied to Neiman Marcus locations in Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach; 133 positions at Venus Fashion, an online and catalog retailer in Jacksonville; and 94 at JCPenney in Jacksonville.
Also, potentially impacted are 152 jobs at TrueCore Behavioral Solutions in Okeechobee; 148 at call-center service provider iVox Solutions in Port St. Lucie; and up to 103 positions at Merritt Island Boat Works.
To try to bolster the hospitality industry, Visit Florida has announced a $13 million campaign to encourage Floridians to travel in the state. The announcement came after a 60 percent drop in tourism in the second quarter of the year.
Carol Dover, president & CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, said in a prepared statement that Visit Florida’s “in-state campaign is essential to the recovery of Florida’s tourism and hospitality industry.”
“If every Floridian decided to take a trip within their community or within our state boundaries, we could quickly see positive momentum in the travel industry,” added Lisa Hulquist, vice president of marketing for SeaWorld Orlando.
SeaWorld Entertainment in a Sept. 4 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission detailed a plan that will lead to permanent job losses for at least some currently furloughed workers.
“Due to the sudden and unforeseeable economic impacts of the pandemic on the company’s business operations, that were not reasonably foreseeable at the time of the temporary furlough, the company has determined that it will transition certain park and corporate personnel from a furloughed status to a permanent layoff,” SeaWorld Entertainment’s filing said. “As a result, the company expects to record approximately $2.5 million to $3.0 million of restructuring and related charges in the third quarter of 2020 related to employee severance costs.”
The paperwork doesn’t specify which of the company’s properties will be impacted. No notification has been posted by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity from SeaWorld Entertainment, which owns SeaWorld Orlando, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Adventure Island Tampa, and properties in California, Texas, Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Florida’s unemployment rate jumped from 10.3 percent in June to 11.3 percent in July as the state grappled with a surge in COVID-19 cases early in the summer. Florida will issue an August unemployment report on Sept. 18.
Gov. Ron DeSantis this week announced the state will start providing $300-a-week in federal unemployment benefits to people who qualify for at least $100 a week in state jobless benefits. Florida offers up to $275 a week in state benefits for 12 weeks.