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Unemployment rate rises in September, weeks of benefits expected to go up in 2021

The state released September’s unemployment report Friday. After a steady decline, it looks like the rate went up at 7.6%. That’s 27,000 more people out of work than in August.

The new numbers show 770,000 people are jobless in Florida. It comes as the state’s hospitality and tourism industries continue to struggle.

“I do want to caution about reading too much into changes over the month like that, in terms of rankings,” said. Adrienne Johnston, the chief economist of Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. “It’s better to give it some time and see if that trend sticks around for a while.”

The good news today, the average of unemployment rates in July, August and September will lead to an increase how long people can collect unemployment.

DEO preliminarily says the number of weeks you can collect state unemployment will go up from 12 to 19 weeks in 2021.

The average unemployment rate in the third quarter of this year is 8.7%. By law, when that is above 5%, the state must add one week for every additional half a percent. Doing the math, that adds 7 weeks, increasing the maximum number of weeks people can collect benefits from 12 to 19.

But, because September’s rate isn’t finalized, we’ll find out next month exactly how many more weeks will be available in 2021.

In response to whether individuals who exhausted their benefits in 2020 would be able to apply in 2021, the DEO says:

“If the individual’s benefit year end date from their 2020 state Reemployment Assistance claim has passed, the individual may be eligible to establish a new benefit year,” said Tiffany Vause, the DEO director of communications, in an email to WINK News. “The individual would have to be monetarily eligible and not have a disqualifying separation. In addition, according to federal and state law, the individual must have worked in-between the prior claim for state Reemployment Assistance and the new 2021 application and earned at least three times their weekly benefit amount.”

In the meantime, as of September, fewer people make up Florida’s labor force.

“Overall the labor force number did decline, but what we are seeing is an increase in the number of people who are saying that they are unemployed but looking for work. So it could be that people are more encouraged to look for work, so they’re counting themselves as unemployed,” Johnston said.

Although numbers from the DEO show Florida’s unemployment rate did go up in September, Southwest Florida overall saw a decline.

LOCAL (SEPTEMBER, UNREVISED)
CHARLOTTE – 5.9%
COLLIER – 6.0%
LEE – 6.4%
HENDRY – 7.5%
GLADES – 4.6%
​DESOTO – 4.0%

LOCAL (AUGUST, REVISED)
CHARLOTTE – 6.5%
COLLIER – 6.8%
LEE – 7.1%
HENDRY – 8.5%
GLADES – 4.9%
​DESOTO – 4.2%

The two counties with the highest unemployment rates depend heavily on tourism — Osceola County and Miami Dade County. The counties with the lowest jobless rates in September were Lafayette and Wakulla counties in North Florida.

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Reporter:Sara Girard
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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