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California unemployment claims rise, U.S. claims drop

California unemployment claims have risen for the second straight week, in sharp contrast to declining claims across the United States, signaling the statewide job market still suffers from coronavirus-linked ailments.

Workers in California filed 71,800 initial claims for unemployment during the week ending May 22, up 1,500 from 70,300 filings the week before, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday.

U.S. unemployment claims totaled 406,000 last week, 38,000 fewer than the first-time filings of 444,000 the prior week, the Labor Department reported. These numbers were adjusted for seasonal variations.

California workers seeking government assistance from the Employment Development Department have encountered a bureaucratic maze of obstacles including a broken phone center, glitch-hobbled computer system, suspended benefit payments and fraud.

The latest filings in California are 60% above the weekly average for first-time claims during January 2020 and February 2020. Those were the final two months before state and local government agencies launched wide-ranging business shutdowns to combat the coronavirus.

California is producing a steadily rising share of all the unemployment claims filed nationwide when comparing equivalent figures that were not adjusted for seasonal variations.

Starting with the seven-day period ending May 1, California’s share of unemployment claims nationwide have risen each week, an analysis of the jobless filings shows. California’s share of the U.S. jobless filings was 12.8% on April 24, 13.8% on May 1, 14.2% on May 8, 15.5% on May 15, and 17.1% on May 22.

These numbers are far above the low point for California’s share of U.S. jobless claims, which occurred during the week ending Jan. 23, when the state accounted for only 6.3% of the nationwide claims.

The worst week for this metric was April 3, when California produced 19% of the U.S. initial unemployment filings. Now the numbers have edged steadily closer to the worst point.

Michael Bernick, an employment attorney with law firm Duane Morris and a former director of the state EDD, believes hiring has not improved dramatically in California although more of the state’s economy has reopened as the effects of the coronavirus begin to fade.

“Even as we near the June 15 state reopen date, over 2 million Californians continue to receive various forms of unemployment insurance,” Bernick said. “This number has not gone down significantly in the past three months, even with the gradual lifting of economic restrictions.


Source: Orange County Register

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