On Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that California has seen 1 million people file for unemployment with the Employment Development Department (EDD) in less than two weeks.
The huge jump is attributed to the “essential businesses only” and subsequent business closures over concerns with spreading the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Instability and layoffs in other sectors that have stayed open as “essential,” most notably the oil industry, also added to the large figure.
“We just passed the 1 million mark, in terms of the number of claims, just since March 13,” announced Gov. Newsom on Wednesday. “One million Californians have now claimed the need to get unemployment insurance, so this cannot happen soon enough.”
Last week California unemployment figures stood at only 285,000, with the EDD only processing a little over 100,000 claims in the first two weeks of March before the statewide lockdown came into effect. California’s surge of over 700,000 unemployed claims in a week has played a large part in the country’s overall figures as well. Figures released Thursday by the Department of Labor found that 3.28 million Americans filed for unemployment last week alone, the highest weekly figures recorded since the Great Depression. This means that California contributes somewhere between one out of every four and one out of every five new jobless claims in the entire country.
“There are almost 18 million workers in the state,” said employment specialist Greg Turner. “That’s a lot of people suddenly filing with the EDD. Right now you can get up to $450 a week for 26 weeks. And right now the feds are weighing a $600 a week for four months type of deal. If you do the math, you still actually make more under California’s system, but that’s if you max out both the amount and weeks.”
“And since you can get both the state and federal amounts, those affected can really stretch out what they need to get during this crisis. But remember those amounts are both maxed, so in all likelihood it will be lower.”
Turner also mentioned a statistic that no one seems to want to answer.
“No one wants to talk about if things get really bad. I mean, the feds have said that unemployment could go as high as 20%. But no one is saying what the cap is for unemployed people. Theoretically there isn’t one, but at what point does it end? The U.S. survived nearly 25% unemployment in 1933. But we also didn’t have the same kind of protections we do now too.”
Other countries have cut benefits if unemployment gets really high to spread them to other people, so that may be what happens worst case scenario, and in all likelihood, states would rather do that than a cutoff number. But no one is telling us these figures, and that’s largely due to never needing to really expect this sort of scenario before.