On Thursday, new figures released by the US Department of Labor showed that around 3.7 million Californian workers have filed for unemployment during the last seven weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak, a total close to 20% of workers in the state.
The number of claims slow down while the unemployment rate inches higher
While the rate is not as bad as the 25% peak during the Great Depression in the 1930’s, the rate has topped the 10%+ rates during the the early 80’s recession and the Great Recession. Thursday’s figures also revealed that, in the last week, California had an additional 328,000 claims. While it wasn’t near the high of the 1.058 million claims during the last week of March and appears to be slowing down, the weekly totals still remain abnormally high due to the ongoing economic effects of the coronavirus.
Nationally, numbers also dipped from the 6.8 million claims during the last week of March to this week’s total of 3.8 million claims.
“California is stabilizing quicker than the rest of the nation right now,” explained economist Edgar O’Fallon. “California has more essential work than many states, more companies here tend to value employees more, and more Californians tend to work side jobs. One job may have evaporated since March, but others are there too. And that’s not to mention California’s large agricultural position and many Californian jobs being able to be worked remotely.”
“I mean, this hit California as hard as any state, but they are very diversified. New York is at a standstill. Florida has had more people go on unemployment that California in recent weeks. A quarter of Michigan is out of work. California acted early, has taken more precautions than most states, and has refused to reopen, and of course recovery will take some time, yet they’re still in a much better position than the majority of states right now.”
An expanded EDD continues to catch up to the backlog of claims
The Employment Development Department (EDD) is also noticing a slowdown in claims less than a month after the sheer volume of claims nearly stretched the department to it’s breaking point. During the worst 4 weeks of the Great Recession, the EDD processed 375,000 claims. In the last 4 weeks prior to this weeks totals, the EDD has processed 2.7 million claims. The number of EDD workers has also grown exponentially from 740 workers pre-coronavirus to 1,940 workers as of this week.
Mary, an EDD worker who didn’t wish to use her full name, said that while things aren’t close to normal still, there’s at least some pressure off.
“We’re keeping up as quickly as we can. We’ve gotten more help here and pushed ourselves extremely hard, so I guess less claims, while still of a gigantic number, seems like its easing a bit.”
“So many people out there need help. And you know, they paid into the system and they’re hurting, so they deserve this kind of help. It’s just so many need it and it happened so quickly. We’re still behind but we’re slowly but surely catching up too. That’s why fewer new claims is such a relief. Working at our hectic pace, more people will get help sooner now.”
According to Governor Newsom speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, California has spent over $6 billion on unemployment claims so far during the seven weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, with $1.2 billion being paid out this week alone.
Fewer claims in both California and the United States are expected next week. The official EDD statewide unemployment rate and job market outlook is due to be released on May 22nd.