Unemployment claims: I filed mine. Have you?

Only 631,000 Americans filed first-time unemployment claims last week. I say "only" because that's fewer than the 645,000 who filed claims the week before.

I should know: I'm one of them.

I filled out an application today through Florida's Agency for Workforce Innovation website. It asked me for some pretty basic information -- SSN, driver's license, how much I made last year, what happened to my job -- and, at the end, said I qualified. Count me as one of the 6.27 million U.S. residents on unemployment.

I took a voluntary buyout from my newspaper job, leaving last week after five years covering hurricanes, crime, food and whatever else came my way. Rules vary from state to state, but in most cases, people qualify for unemployment if they are fired, take a buyout or even just quit.

You have to be actively looking for a job in order to file a claim and collect unemployment insurance, which is typically about half your previous week's pay. So while I string together a few freelance assignments (thanks, WalletPop!) and look for a full-time gig, I figure being on unemployment can only help.

At least I know I'm not alone. Unemployment rates in 109 U.S. cities are 10% or higher, up from just 14 cities that reported that level last year. (El Centro, Calif., earns the dubious distinction of having the highest unemployment rate in the country at 25.1%.)

But, like I said, fewer people filed for unemployment this week than last week, so that's gotta be a good thing.

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