Florida’s October numbers show 6.5% unemployment rate; experts say it’s not the whole picture

Reporter: Sara Girard Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Credit: WINK News.

More people are getting back to work. That’s according to new numbers from the state that show October’s unemployment rate slid down to 6.5%, and Southwest Florida is following the same trend. We looked into what’s behind the numbers in the recent report.

We often hear about the unemployment rate, but we don’t hear as much about discouraged workers and people who are under employed or not working enough hours, and that’s what experts say we can’t ignore.

State numbers do show some people are getting back to work. We’ve gained back more than half the jobs we lost early in the pandemic.

At the same time, the labor force is shrinking.

Even though unemployment claims are also falling, researchers say they can’t count how many people never got through the system and just gave up.

In October, about one 1 of every 3 unemployed individuals nationwide were “long-term” unemployed, making it even harder to get a job.

“Just because the unemployment rate is dropping, it doesn’t mean that people should stop paying attention to the unemployment system in Florida,” said Michele Evermore, researcher and senior policy adviser with the National Employment Law Project. “I just got an email from a family in Florida, where only one person was able to get a benefit. It was something like $125 a week, and they are now living in a camper, and they have to keep moving the camper every time they get caught living in some friend’s backyard … This is the human cost of not having a decent unemployment insurance system.”

If we include those who are discouraged or working part-time but want to be full-time, the unemployment rate doubles.

Evermore says more state help is needed to get them back on track.

Unfortunately for many people still collecting benefits, come Dec. 31, key programs from the CARES Act that have allowed millions of people to makes ends meet for months will expire.

“We know that nationally 12 million people will fall off the rolls at the end of the year,” Evermore said. “But we also know from the Congressional Budget Office that, prior to the end of the year, five million people lose benefits because they’ve exhausted everything. And that’s particularly a problem in Florida that only has 12 weeks of regular benefits.”

There is some good news: Starting Jan. 1, 2021, any new claims in Florida will be eligible for up to 19 weeks of payments instead of 12 weeks. That’s due to the fact that Florida’s unemployment rate skyrocketed in 2020.

MORE: Florida’s October Employment Figures Released

For ongoing updates and information on unemployment, follow WINK News Investigative Reporter Sara Girard on Twitter and Facebook.

She also updates the WINK News FAQ: Unemployment Resources page as information is received.

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