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Coronavirus unemployment: California jobless claims fall for third straight week

Unemployment claims in California fell for the third straight week and declined to their lowest point in months, the government reported Thursday, offering hope that the state’s economy has begun to shed some of the ailments unleashed by coronavirus-linked business shutdowns.

California workers filed 213,500 first-time claims for unemployment during the week that ended on Aug. 8, which was down about 8,500 from the 222,000 initial claims filed in the week that ended on Aug. 1, the U.S. Labor Department reported.

The initial claims for unemployment filed during the Aug. 8 week were the fewest claims filed since the week that ended May 23, when 203,300 claims were filed, according to this news organization’s analysis of reports filed by the Labor Department and the state’s Employment Development Department.

Still, the business shutdowns ordered by state and local government agencies in a quest to battle the spread of the deadly bug have clearly taken a toll on the California economy.

Since the shutdowns began about five months ago, a jaw-dropping 7.51 million California workers have filed first-time claims for unemployment.

Nationwide, 963,000 workers filed initial claims for unemployment during the week ending on Aug. 8, which was down 228,000 from the 1.19 million jobless claims that were filed in the week ending on Aug. 1.

This marked the first time since the week of March 14 — the approximate starting point for government-imposed business shutdowns — that the number of weekly initial jobless claims filed in the United States fell below 1 million.

So far, the United States job market appears to have shed the side-effects of the coronavirus at a faster pace than is the case with California’s economy, an analysis of the pace of jobless claims suggests.

The highest level of jobless claims filings occurred during the week that ended on March 28, when workers in the United States filed 6.87 million initial claims and California workers filed 1.06 million claims.

The latest U.S. jobless claims filings are 86 percent below the nationwide peak, while the California filings are 79.8 percent below the statewide peak.

Even worse, California last week accounted for an outsized share of the jobless claims nationwide, another indicator that the employment market in the Golden State is relatively feeble compared to the United States.

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The 213,500 jobless claims in California represented 22 percent or one of every five claims nationwide during the week that ended Aug. 8 — but California’s labor force is only 12 percent the size of the nationwide labor force.

“California’s continued economic lockdowns in counties continue to mean ongoing new layoffs, conversion of furloughs into layoffs, and business closures,” said Michael Bernick, an employment attorney with law firm Duane Morris and a former director of the EDD.

Still, while California’s rebound from the worst days of the statewide layoffs and furloughs, the trends point towards a job market that has started to heal.

For the first time in about two months, the total number of California jobless claims filed over the most recent four weeks has fallen below 1 million, totaling 969,800 during the one-month period.

A four-week rolling average of jobless claims in California came in at 242,400 for the Aug. 8 week, which was down 17,900 from the four-week moving average for the week that ended Aug. 1. A four-week moving average is a data tool that smooths out weekly gyrations in the numbers.

California’s ongoing struggles in the job market come at a time when the EDD has failed to pay benefits to jobless workers in anything that resembles a timely fashion.

At least 1.13 million unemployed California workers are not receiving payments — although they might be eligible to be paid — because they are trapped in an EDD-created bureaucratic limbo.

About 889,000 California workers “may be eligible with additional information” while another 239,000 workers are awaiting payment “pending resolution” of their claims by the EDD, according to official estimates the EDD provided to a state legislative panel on Aug. 5.

“The issue of reopening the economy is an emotionally charged one in California, with strong opinions on both sides,” Bernick said. “The latest numbers continue to show that only some form of reopening will decrease the layoffs.”

Source: Orange County Register

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