California unemployment claims rise, now 67% above normal

Unemployment claims in California have risen to their worst levels in more than a month and are now far above the amount that was typical before the start of coronavirus-linked business shutdowns, the federal government reported Thursday.

California workers filed 74,625 initial claims for unemployment benefits during the week that ended on May 29, an increase of 3,750 compared with the week ending on May 22, when workers filed 71,055 jobless claims, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

The coronavirus has unleashed unprecedented economic woes on California workers in the wake of government-ordered business shutdowns to curb the spread of the deadly bug.

During March and April of 2020, a jaw-dropping 2.71 million California workers lost their jobs at the outset of the business shutdowns to combat the coronavirus. In April of this year, a stunning 1.58 million California residents were still unemployed, the state Employment Development Department reported.

Making matters worse, California workers seeking government assistance have encountered a bureaucratic maze of obstacles caused by a string of EDD miscues.

EDD failures include a broken phone center, glitch-hobbled computer system, suspended benefit payments, and fraud.

Nationwide, 385,000 workers filed initial claims for unemployment during the week ending May 29, a decrease of 20,000 from the 405,000 claims that were filed the prior week, the Labor Department reported. These national numbers were adjusted for seasonal volatility.

The 74,625 jobless claims filed in California last week represent the highest amount since April 24, when workers statewide filed 78,600 unemployment claims.

The latest totals are also 67% higher than what was typical in California prior to the start of the business shutdowns that began in March 2020.

During January and February 2020, the final two months before the lockdowns began, California’s initial unemployment claims averaged 44,800 a week.

One grim metric that underscores the weakness of the California economy: The state is accounting for a steadily rising share of the unemployment claims being filed nationwide, according to this news organization’s analysis of the statewide and nationwide filings.

Comparing numbers that were not adjusted for seasonal variations, California last week accounted for 17.5% of all the jobless claims in the United States — even though California has only about 11% of the nation’s workforce.

California’s share of the nationwide unemployment misery has increased for five consecutive weeks. The state’s current share is the highest its been since the week ending April 3, when California accounted for 19% of all of the U.S. jobless claims.

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