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California, U.S. weekly jobless claims rise again

Unemployment claims in California jumped to105,600 last week, up 9,600 from the prior week, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday.

Since business shutdowns began in March 2020, California unemployment claims have been above 100,000 for 50 of the last 54 weeks.

“The state continues to see a high number of layoffs, even a year after the pandemic started,” said Michael Bernick, an employment attorney with law firm Duane Morris, and a former director of the state Employment Development Department.

During January and February of 2020, before the lockdowns were launched, initial unemployment claims averaged 44,800 a week.

During the 54 weeks of government-ordered business restrictions and closures, jobless claims have averaged 231,600 a week in California.

Nationwide, initial unemployment claims totaled 719,000 during the week ending March 27, up 61,000 from the previous week.

California’s unemployment claims last week accounted for 14.8% of all the claims filed in the U.S. — even though the state has only 11.8% of the nation’s labor force.

California’s share of the nationwide jobless claims, which are not seasonally adjusted, has been climbing steadily for the last three weeks.

U.S. picture

The nation’s four-week average of claims, which smooths out week-to-week gyrations, fell by 10,500 to 719,000 — the fewest since mid-March 2020, just before the pandemic began to cause widespread layoffs.

All told, 3.8 million people were collecting traditional state benefits during the week ending March 20. If you include federal programs that are meant to help the unemployed through the health crisis, 18.2 million people were receiving some type of jobless aid in the week that ended March 13. That’s down from 19.7 million in the previous week.

Economists monitor weekly applications for unemployment aid for early signs of where the job market is headed. Applications generally reflect the rate of layoffs, which normally fall steadily as the job market strengthens. During the pandemic, though, the numbers have become less reliable as states have struggled with application backlogs and allegations of fraud have clouded the actual volume of job cuts.

And even with the pace of layoffs still relatively high, hiring has begun to accelerate. In February, employers added a robust 379,000 jobs across the country. Last month, they are believed to have added even more: According to the data firm FactSet, economists expect the March jobs report being released Friday to show that the economy added a sizable 614,000 jobs and that the unemployment rate fell from 6.2% to 6%. Less than a year ago, the jobless rate had hit 14.8%.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Source: Orange County Register

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