Coronavirus and the States: Large Southern States Likely to Lead New Unemployment Claims; More Testing Woes

By: - April 7, 2020 12:00 am

David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP

Read Stateline coverage of the latest state action on coronavirus.

After last week’s second record week for unemployment claims, Texas and Florida may be the next states to see the biggest waves of job losses after issuing relatively late stay-at-home orders.

Texas expects its biggest number of claims yet, about 361,000, based on internal data, almost doubling the rate of new claims to about 6% of those who had jobs before the coronavirus crisis began in February. That figure would raise Texas’ overall unemployment rate from February’s 3.5% to almost 10%.

The U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday will release the number of unemployment claims that were filed last week.

Florida’s system has been jammed with callers and online users trying to apply for unemployment, and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis announced 750 new staff members and 72 new internet servers starting this week to handle the crush. The state has estimated it could take weeks to get through what it predicts will be 261,000 new claims, which also would be a high point in one week.

“A lot of people are hurting right now through no fault of their own,” DeSantis said. “A flawed and bureaucratic reemployment system should be the last thing that prevents them from getting assistance.” 

Texas imposed a statewide stay-at-home order April 2 after leaving the issue to local authorities for several weeks. Florida followed the next day, so Thursday’s data will be the first to show some of that impact.

Elsewhere, the North Carolina Division of Employment Security said it expects unemployment claims to grow exponentially after a statewide stay-home order took effect March 30. The state added or moved 350 employees and 500 computers.

More than 10 million people have filed for unemployment benefits since the crisis began, with states such as Pennsylvania that issued earlier stay-home orders hit hardest. Despite being early virus epicenters, New York and California were less affected because they have more white-collar jobs that can be done remotely.

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Tim Henderson
Tim Henderson

Tim Henderson covers demographics for Stateline. He has been a reporter at the Miami Herald, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Journal News.