From Center for Jobs and the Economy <[email protected]>
Subject Unemployment Data Update: March 2020 through May 1, 2021
Date May 7, 2021 4:00 PM
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Web Version [link removed] | Update Preferences [link removed] [link removed] Unemployment Data Update: March 2020 through May 1, 2021 Unemployment Insurance Claims

Total initial claims fell in California the week of May 1, while plunging twice as fast in the rest of the US. The US total was another pandemic low, while the California numbers bested the previous low reached 3 weeks ago.

In California, initial claims processed in the regular program dropped 9.4% compared to the prior week, while PUA claims were down 5.4%. In the national totals, regular claims were down 17.5%, while PUA claims dropped 16.6%. Combined, total claims processed were down 8.7% in California and 17.4% in the US numbers.

By industry, the largest number of initial claims (all programs) were again filed by workers in Accommodation & Food Service (18.5%), Retail Trade (11.5%), Health Care & Social Assistance (9.4%), Administrative & Support & Waste Management Services (8.1%), and Construction (7.3%).

Even with the latest dip, the California numbers have been near level over the past 4 weeks, the rest of the states continued the downward trend that began in January.

County Tier Status & the Unemployed

In the most recent results for March, California tied with Connecticut and New Mexico for the third highest unemployment rate in the country, behind only Hawaii which is even more dependent on tourism-related employment and New York which adopted lock-down strategies comparable to California’s.

These numbers only cover the officially unemployed and not workers who have left the labor force during the pandemic period including workers who have given up on trying to find a job, workers who are fearful of contracting the disease if they get a job, and parents who have had to quit their jobs to take care of their children while the California public schools have remained closed and while substantial uncertainty remains in many districts over when and how they will reopen.

The most recent tier allocations for the week of May 4 from the Department of Public Health [[link removed]] show continuing improvements in relieving restrictions to business activities and jobs. Counties in the second lowest Tier 3 restrictions held 51.6% of March’s unemployment, 10.5% remain within the second highest Tier 2, but the lowest Tier 4 jumped to 37.9% as a result of reclassifying Los Angeles and San Francisco. All counties remain under some level of restrictions which present barriers to the state’s economic recovery and continued reliance of many workers on unemployment benefits, although the governor recently announced his intention [[link removed]] to remove the tiered system by June 15.

Vaccine Tracker

In the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control [[link removed]], California again was just above the US average in the share of vaccine doses being administered. Total additional vaccine supplies dropped to 2.1 million for the week (13.1% of the national gain), and the number of shots slowed by a third to 1.7 million (13.8% of the national total). As of midday May 6, a total of 31.7 million shots have been administered in the state covering 19.8 million people, or 50.1% of the population and 63.3% of the population age 18 and over. In all, 32.4% of the population (US 32.3%) and 41.5% of population 18 and over (US 41.3%) have been fully vaccinated.

School Openings

Another major determinant of the number of workers forced to rely on unemployment insurance payments is the status of school reopenings. Last August saw a surge in applications for both the regular program and for PUA—eligibility for which includes workers leaving their jobs due to child and other dependent care responsibilities—as many districts virtually at the last minute decided not to return to classroom instruction, leaving no options but unemployment for many parents, in particular women in lower income households. [[link removed]]

In the latest survey results from the US Center for Educational Statistics, California was dead last among the states offering in-person instruction to all students. The survey covers 4th and 8th graders—the numbers in the chart below are the totals for both grades. The survey response in March was somewhat lower, with insufficient data from 20 states and DC.


The most current EDD backlog data [[link removed]] indicates total backlogged claims rose 3.0% the week of May 1, with the total still exceeding 1 million. The number of claims backlogged awaiting EDD action rose 22.8%. Backlogged claims are defined as those awaiting action for 21 days or longer.

The related call center data indicates that the number of calls rose substantially over the prior weeks, with the both the number of total calls and unique callers rising during the week of May 1, but the number of calls answered dropping by 7%. On average—using total number of calls received and the number of calls answered by staff—the average caller put in 12.2 calls trying to reach EDD. Of the unique callers, up to 68% had their calls answered by staff (assuming one call answered per unique caller).

Long-Term Unemployment

As an indicator of long term unemployment in the state, payments for the extended benefit programs (PEUC and Fed Ed) rose to 31.0% of the total for the week of May 1. While the share has eased from its high of 50.3% in March, a substantial share of those receiving unemployment benefits still face the risks of lifetime wage and income effects similar to those that afflicted the long term unemployed coming out of the previous recession that began in 2008.

UI Fund

In the most recent data from the EDD [[link removed]], California paid out a total of $141.8 billion in benefits under all the UI programs since the week of March 7, 2020.

The most current estimate [[link removed]] is that up to $31 billion of unemployment benefits was paid out to fraudulent claims, consisting of $11 billion in known fraud and up to $20 billion in suspected fraud.

The most recent data from the US Department of Labor [[link removed]] indicates California’s outstanding loans as of May 4 from the Federal Unemployment Account eased to $20.9 billion, or 40% of the total amount owed by 19 states and 1 territory.

visit the center for jobs » [[link removed]] The California Center for Jobs and the Economy provides an objective and definitive source of information pertaining to job creation and economic trends in California. [[link removed]] Contact 1301 I Street Sacramento, CA 95814 916.553.4093 If you no longer wish to receive these emails, select here to unsubscribe. [link removed]
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