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    Record unemployment claims


    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published November 3, 2001

    Florida's unemployment rate for September was 4.3 percent. The October statistics won't be available until mid November. But Warren May, spokesman for the state's Agency for Workforce Innovation, said first-time unemployment compensation claims reached a record 80,554 during the month.

    "That's compared to 52,794 first-time filings in September," he said. "The closest we came to the October number in the past was in 1991."

    May said there are two hopeful signs. New claims peaked in the first week of October, then declined steadily during the rest of the month. And Florida continues to lead the nation in creation of new jobs, though many are in the low-paying service sector.

    Among the jobs filled in Pinellas County in October were 1,000 positions at the new Wal-Mart SuperCenter, plus openings at a Fairfield Inn, Cracker Barrel restaurant and new CVS pharmacies in the area.

    In Hillsborough County, the main Workforce Center on Florida Avenue last week had about 200 people per day applying for seasonal jobs with the post office. First-time claims at the site were 2,376 in October, up 63 percent from September figures. And Sylvia Dougherty, manager of Workforce Tampa, said staffing agencies no longer show up at the office to try to recruit the unemployed.

    "It's been very slow," she said.

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