Unemployment claims in California hit their highest level in five months last week, raising new uncertainties about the strength of a state-wide economy trying to recover from coronavirus-related illnesses .
California workers filed 75,800 initial jobless claims in the week ended September 18, an increase of 24,200 from the previous week, the US Department of Labor reported Thursday.
The total number of requests is the highest since the week ending April 24, according to the analysis of this news organization of the publications of the Ministry of Labor, and marked the biggest increase of a week since April 3, when deposits jumped 39,100 over a seven-day period.
Nationally, the numbers have also increased, as workers filed 351,000 initial jobless claims last week, an increase of 16,000 from the previous week, the Labor Department reported.
But some experts point to “dueling accounts” in recent reports on employment in California and the Bay Area, as Michael Bernick, employment lawyer at the law firm Duane Morris and former Director of State EDD.
Case in point: California created 104,300 jobs in August while the Bay Area gained 19,800 jobs, according to a report released this month by EDD.
“Some of the data points to an accelerating recovery,” Bernick said.
In contrast, weekly jobless claims suggest that significant weaknesses persist in at least some segments of the economy. Unemployment claims filed by California workers last week were 69% higher than average weekly totals for January 2020 and February 2020, the last two months before government agencies ordered sweeping business closures to combat the spread of the coronavirus. In those two months, jobless claims averaged 44,800 per week.
“Other data suggests the recovery is more hesitant in California than in other states,” Bernick noted.
EDD officials explain that part of the increase in claims is linked to a short-term shift of some unemployed workers to another government pot of money that allows them to continue receiving benefits for a period of time. short period beyond the September 4th deadline. An additional $ 300 per week paid for by a federal program that has now expired.
Some workers were transferred to a program called FED-ED, which allowed benefit payments to continue until September 11, said Loree Levy, spokesperson for EDD.
“There is also an increase in the number of people with expired federal unemployment claims who are filing new regular UI claims, hoping that they have earned enough employer-paid wages since they started their job. last application to be eligible, ”Levy said.
Not everyone will be able to continue to receive these benefits, warns the EDD.
In this case, it is possible that the number of unemployment claims will decrease in the coming weeks.
Despite this, California continues to drag the nation into recouping jobs lost at the start of coronavirus-related business closures last year, this news agency’s analysis of government employment statistics shows.
California recovered 62.1% of the 2.71 million jobs lost by the state in March 2020 and April 2020, when government-ordered closures were initiated. In contrast, the United States recovered 76.2% of its lost jobs.
The Bay Area is doing even worse than the state. The nine-county region recovered only 51.6% of the 638,600 jobs lost in March 2020 and April 2020.
The job losses have been so severe that some workers may have decided to stay out of the labor market and continue to claim unemployment benefits.
During past recessions or periods of significant job losses, workers who lost their jobs were rehired relatively slowly because employer demand was reduced.
“There was no way workers wanted to be in the job market,” Bernick said.
This time around, anecdotes suggest employers in many industries are eager to hire workers, but in California and the Bay Area, employees aren’t always in a rush to re-enter the workforce.
“This recovery has been shaped largely so far by a reluctance of workers to take over at least a segment of direct service jobs, due to health concerns and a re-examination of returning to their previous occupations,” he said. said Bernick.