Florida overtook California on Thursday as the U.S. state with the most weekly unemployment claims as Tallahassee began to process in earnest its sizable backlog of filings.
Florida, which reported 432,465 jobless claims for the week ended April 25, topped California’s 328,042, marking the first time since the week ended March 21 that the Golden State didn’t lead the nation in the number of workers filing for unemployment benefits.
Though both states reported declines in the number of workers seeking insurance from the prior week, that Florida is now leading the chart is notable since its labor force is about half that of California’s. Texas and Georgia also saw a significant number of claims last week with each state reporting at least 250,000.
The relative surge Florida in claims is likely thanks to an improvement in the state’s ability to process filings.
The Associated Press reported last week that nearly 7 of every 8 Floridians who managed to file claims during the three weeks from mid-March until early April were waiting to have them processed. California and Texas had about two-thirds of claims backlogged, while New York had about 30% of claims waiting, the AP reported.
“A look at unemployment claims around the country by state strongly implies that there will be a surge in unemployment claims in two states: Texas and Florida,” Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at RSM US, said in a note.
“The collapse of the oil and energy complex in Texas will certainly cause a surge in claims, as well as in Florida, where widespread issues in processing so many claims will almost surely cause a jump in first-time claims over the next month,” he added.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that another 3.84 million Americans filed initial claims for unemployment last week as Covid-19 business closures put more Americans out of work.
Though the pace of layoffs appears to be slowing — the latest claims count is the lowest since March 21 — the new data bring the cumulative six-week total to 30.3 million initial jobless claims as part of the worst employment crisis in U.S. history.
The Labor Department’s prior jobless claims report, released April 23, showed the number of Americans who had filed for unemployment insurance benefits over the previous five weeks was 26.45 million.
That number exceeded the 22.442 million positions added to the American economy since November 2009, when the U.S. economy began to add jobs after the Great Recession.
“Once one accounts for those who have been denied unemployment or live in states that have not been able to process the rising claims of the unemployed, it’s almost certain that in less than two months the U.S. economy has smashed the Depression-era record,” RSM’s Brusuelas added. “The only question here is will initial claims peak above or just below 40 million in the next month.”
Controlling for state labor force size, Hawaii, Kentucky, Georgia, Rhode Island and Michigan lead the country in jobless claims over the last six weeks. Those states have seen 292, 286, 268, 261, and 255 jobless claims per 1,000 workers.
Rounding out the states that have seen the most concentrated unemployment claims are Nevada, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Washington state and Alaska with 253, 251, 243, 222 and 207 per 1,000 workers, respectively. The data is for jobless filings through the end of last week.
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