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Florida, national jobless claims drop

First-time unemployment claims in Florida dropped about 25 percent last week, while claims nationally were the lowest since April. The U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday issued a report that estimated 5,271 unemployment applications were filed in Florida during the week that ended Jan. 21, down from 7,121 during the week that ended Jan. 14. Meanwhile, the Department of Labor estimated the number of claims nationally dropped to 186,000 last week, after 192,000 were filed the previous week. [Source: News Service of Florida]

Business BeatBusiness Beat - Week of January 27th

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Florida nursing schools sold 7,600 fake diplomas, feds say

Up to 7,600 people across the US may be using fake nursing credentials from a scheme run by Florida nursing schools selling diplomas, federal prosecutors said on Wednesday. Employees and owners of three accredited schools — Palm Beach School of Nursing, Siena College, and Sacred Heart International Institute — are accused by the Justice Department of selling 7,600 diplomas and transcripts to people seeking licenses and jobs as registered nurses and practical or vocational nurses. More from Business Insider and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Raymond James’s chief economist: Soft landing to inflation still in play

Economists can’t see the future. Eugenio Alemán has always known this, but it was especially clear just before the pandemic hit. “I remember I told my boss, ‘Is there any plan to work from home in case this thing gets really bad?’” Alemán said. “And my boss at the time said, ‘In Washington, D.C.? This is never going to close down.’ So you can see, we are not even close to fortune tellers.” Be that as it may, Alemán’s views on the future of the economy are very much in demand. [Source: Tampa Bay Times]

Driver safety has deteriorated post-pandemic, with crashes and shootings rampant on Florida roads

With 22.9 million vehicles currently in the state, and difficulty filling the ranks of Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) troopers, issues abound on Florida roads, including nearly documented 110,000 hit-and-run crashes and 700,000 crashes in the last year. “Since 2020, we’ve seen a large increase in aggressive driving,” said Dave Kerner, the Executive Director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, with 187 shootings on the interstate system last year alone. [Source: Florida Politics]


› Rays have a developer and a plan for a stadium. Do they have a partner in St. Pete?
It’s decision time in the city. The same momentous, once-in-a-lifetime decision that keeps playing round and round in these parts. It first arrived here with Tropicana Field’s conception in 1986. And then again, briefly, with a proposed waterfront stadium in 2007. And now the latest stadium decision could plausibly redraw a city’s future while simultaneously rectifying the sins of its past. Again.

› Brevard County nixes tax breaks for semiconductor company in Palm Bay
The courtship between the county government and a high-tech semiconductor firm ended with a whimper this week after the Brevard County Commission voted 3-2 against hefty property tax breaks for the company. The Oregon-based high-tech company Rogue Valley Microdevices Inc. is looking to expand its operations to Palm Bay, and has been seeking property tax breaks from Brevard County and the city of Palm Bay as an incentive to locate there.

› Lakewood Ranch developers seek compromise on racetracks
Developers seeking compromise with automotive YouTube star Cleetus McFarland plan to build a residential neighborhood that specifically caters to motorheads to appease concern that expansion of Lakewood Ranch could spell an end to the race tracks. The expansion would encompass 2,400 acres of land owned by SMR Taylor Ranch, but dozens of Manatee County residents and supporters from across the country filled the county commission chambers in December to oppose the plan over concern that development will lead to the demise of the Freedom Factory and Bradenton Motorsports Park.

› Visiting Miami on a budget? European hotel chain opens in downtown Miami’s Worldcenter
A European hotel chain with 42 properties around the world has arrived in Miami, offering budget stays in a rapidly changing downtown. Netherlands-based citizenM Hotels opened at Miami Worldcenter at 700 NE Second Ave. early this month, after its local debut in Brickell in November. The 11-story hotel is part of Worldcenter’s 27-acre, $4 billion residential and commercial complex.

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› James Beard nominations skip Tampa Bay restaurants, again
The James Beard Awards semifinalists for 2023 were announced Wednesday morning, but for Tampa Bay restaurants, there wasn’t much to celebrate. Once again, not a single restaurant owner or chef received a nod from the prestigious culinary organization. The last time Tampa Bay received recognition on the list was in 2019 (the awards were canceled in 2020 and 2021, as the group sought to overhaul some of its practices).

› Federal agents arrest slew of suspects in Florida nursing school diploma scam
Federal agents on Wednesday arrested about 25 suspects accused of selling fabricated nursing degrees to thousands of students who then used the bogus diplomas to take licensing exams in several states, including Florida, New York, New Jersey and Texas. A network of nursing school operators, centered in South Florida, illegally charged each student between $10,000 for a licensed practical nurse degree and $17,000 for a registered nurse diploma — without requiring proper training, according to federal authorities and court records.

› Cocoa Beach Pier gets $3.5 million rehab with new restaurants
For Debbie Riddle and Jean Lang, lunch at the Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier is a relaxing part of their vacation from Michigan. “Just being able to go out on the pier and be able to have a meal is something,” said Riddle, 70. “It’s nice just to relax and watch the water. ... I had crab and shrimp dip.” The friends are repeat visitors to Cocoa Beach and plan to come back, meaning they’ll likely return to an improved version of the pier with new dining options on their next visit.

› FIS board shake-up continues as part of deal with hedge fund
For the second time in a month, Fidelity National Information Services Inc. announced a shake-up of its board of directors as part of an agreement with an activist hedge fund. Mark Ernst, who was appointed as a director in December under the agreement with D.E. Shaw Group, resigned from the board Jan. 13 because of a conflict of interest.