California Unemployment Insurance Claims During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 crisis has led to historically unprecedented increases in the level of initial Unemployment Insurance (UI) claims filed in California since the start of the crisis in mid-March. Through a partnership with the Labor Market Information Division of the California Employment Development Department, CPL is analyzing daily initial UI claims to provide an in-depth and near real-time look at how the COVID-19 crisis is impacting various industries, regions, counties, and types of workers throughout California. This analysis will be updated on a bi-weekly basis.

Click here to go to July 2nd Policy Brief, Key Findings, and Press Release.

Click here to go to June 11th Policy Brief, Key Findings, and Press Release.

Click here to go to May 21st Policy Brief, Key Findings, and Press Release.

Click here to go to May 7th Policy Brief, Key Findings, and Press Release.

Click here to go to April 29th Policy Brief, Key Findings, and Press Release.

Click here to view media coverage of this research.

July 2nd Policy Brief

REPORT: July 2nd Analysis of Unemployment Insurance Claims in California During the COVID-19 Pandemic  PDF

PRESS RELEASE: New Analysis: Over One in Six California Workers Currently Receiving Unemployment

Key Research Findings

1. In the week ending June 6th, 3.2 million claimants, or about 16.4% of the CA labor force in February, were potentially eligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits, meaning they were either paid benefits for unemployment that week, or were denied payment due to excess earnings or Full-Time Work. This finding is based on a new measure of continuing UI claims that counts individuals when they receive benefits, rather than number of payments in the week in which a claimant certifies for them.

2. Initial UI Claims have been double the Great Recession peak in 5 of the last 6 weeks, and are now rising again.

3. In a sign of partly improving labor market conditions, the share of paid claimants who report some earnings (Partial UI) has been steadily rising, and the share of claimants potentially eligible for payment but are deemed ineligible due to excess earnings remains elevated relative to early in the crisis. The report shows there was a particular increase among claimants from Retail Sales and Accommodation and Food Services.

4.The reported rate of recall has reversed its downward trend, but the gap in recall expectations between Black claimants and others persists.

5. The labor market crisis has been more severe for some demographic groups than others, with women, younger workers, and Black and Asian Workers seeing a larger share of workers receive UI payments in the week ending June 6th.

June 11th Policy Brief

REPORT: June 11th Analysis of Unemployment Insurance Claims in California During the COVID-19 Pandemic  PDF

PRESS RELEASE: New Analysis: California UI Claimants Began Returning to Work, and More UI Claims Are Being Reduced or Denied as a Result

Key Research Findings

1. In a sign of improving economic conditions, the fraction of UI beneficiaries either not receiving their first benefit payment because their earnings were too high or receiving partial UI benefits increased in the first half of May. Only workers earning less than three quarters of their prior weekly wages qualify for partial UI and FPUC (and workers earning above that are denied UI benefits entirely for that week), creating a difficult decision for workers in an uncertain labor market.

2. In the weeks preceding May 16th, the period preceding last week’s Jobs Report, a total of 0.46% of the California labor force in April either received partial UI or were denied benefits because of excess earnings (compared to a one and a half decline in the national unemployment rate). Hence, a substantial fraction of individuals that recently returned to work are working reduced hours and may still be attached to the Unemployment Insurance system.

3. As layoffs become more evenly distributed across industries, the share of UI claims by more educated workers have been gradually increasing. Among higher educated workers that claimed benefits recently, Generation Z (age 16-23), women, and those working in Health Care and Social Assistance were most affected.

4. During the past four weeks, about 70% of initial UI claimants reported that they expected to be recalled. However, differences in recall expectations are growing, with 62% of Black workers who filed claims from May 17th to May 30th saying they expect to be recalled vs. 72% of White, 73% of Hispanic, and 74% of Asian workers.

5. The cumulative impact of the crisis is still substantially greater for less advantaged workers – over 1 in 4 women (as opposed to 1 in 5 men), more than 1 in 3 members of Generation Z, and more than 1 in 2 workers with a high school degree have filed for benefits.

6. As the economy slowly re-opens, programs such as Work Sharing, which allow working claimants to keep a share of their UI benefits and maintain eligibility for the $600 FPUC payment, would help strengthen the financial outlook for workers if they’re working at reduced time and earnings.

May 21st Policy Brief

REPORT: May 21st Analysis of Unemployment Insurance Claims in California During the COVID-19 Pandemic  PDF

PRESS RELEASE: New Analysis Finds Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program is Needed Financial Boost for California Workers

Key Research Findings

1. Including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims, one in four Californian workers has filed a UI claim since the start of the crisis, reaching levels of the Great Depression.

2. The added $600 per week from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program has played a substantial role in preventing near-poverty income levels among UI claimants.

3. Since the start of the Crisis, one in three workers from Generation Z (age 16-23), and one in four Millennials (Age 24-39) have filed a UI claim. Meanwhile, only one in five Baby Boomers (Age 56+) have filed a claim.

4. Recall Rate Declines: At 69%, the share of claimants expecting to be recalled to their employer is still substantially higher than an average of 40% before the crisis, but has continued to decline from a peak of 91% at the beginning of the crisis.

5. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance: Twenty percent among all self-employed workers in California have applied for. Relative to workers filing for regular UI benefits, individuals filing PUA are more likely to be White and Asian, are older, and more concentrated in large urban counties.

May 7th Policy Brief

REPORT: May 7th Analysis of Unemployment Insurance Claims in California During the COVID-19 Pandemic  PDF

PRESS RELEASE: New Analysis of Unemployment Insurance Claims in California Provides Detailed Snapshot of How COVID-19 is Impacting California Workers, Industries, and Counties

Key Research Findings

1. 80% of initial claimants report they expect to be recalled to their prior job, down from 90% at the peak of the crisis, and a substantial increase from 40% who had this expectation before the crisis.

2. All races and ethnicities were affected by the crisis, but the share of Asian claimants experienced an increase in the share of initial claims, particularly among Accommodation and Food Services and Health Care/ Social Assistance Services.

3. The fraction of the labor force that filed initial UI claims since mid-March rose to 18.8% statewide, to 45% for less educated workers, and to 30% for workers in their early 20s.

4. The number of initial claims has declined for three consecutive weeks, but claims in the week ending April 25th were still eight times the pre-crisis average in February.

5. While there are important similarities in the effect of the crisis across counties in California, industries in certain counties were more affected than others.

April 29th Policy Brief

April 29th REPORT: April 29th Analysis of Unemployment Insurance Claims in California During the COVID-19 Pandemic  PDF

PRESS RELEASE: New Analysis of Unemployment Insurance Claims in California Provides Detailed Snapshot of How COVID-19 is Impacting California Workers, Industries, and Counties

Scroll down or click here for interactive map.

Key Research Findings:

1) Younger workers made up a disproportionately large share of initial Unemployment Insurance claims.
Claimants aged 20–24 made up 14% of total claimants since March 15th, despite only representing 9% of the state’s labor force in February, while initial claimants aged 25–34 made up 29% of the total during that period despite representing only 25% of the workforce in February.
















2) Lower-educated workers made up a disproportionately large share of claims.
Since March 15th, a staggering 36.7% of individuals in the labor force with just a high school degree filed initial UI claims (compared to 11.9% for workers with some college or an Associate’s degree, and 5.7% for those with a Bachelor’s degree).
















3) Almost 90% of all initial UI claimants during the surge of UI claims in the last two weeks reported that they expect to be recalled to their previous employers. In comparison, around 40-50% of initial UI claimants during February reported the same expectation.

















4)  14.4% of the California labor force has filed initial Unemployment Insurance claims since mid-March. This includes nearly 1 in 3 Food and Accommodation workers and 1 in 5 workers in Retail.While both the Accommodation and Food Services industry and the Retail Trade industry each account for about 11% of the state’s labor force, they respectively accounted for over 21% and close to 14% of initial UI claims since mid-March.
















5) All counties have seen substantial growth in initial UI claims, but the rise has been more pronounced in several usually economically strong areas of the state, including the Bay Area, LA, and Southern California. In Los Angeles County, 16.1% of the labor force filed initial UI claims since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, while in Fresno, 12% of individuals in the labor force filed initial claims during the same period.

Select Media Coverage

Sacramento Bee: Still on hold: California’s unemployment call center is broken. When will it get fixed? (July 2, 2020)

KQED: Over Half of Hospitality Workers Lose Their Jobs in San Francisco Area (June 25, 2020)

Fresno Bee: How a pandemic exposed racial inequality, food insecurity in California’s Central Valley (June 18, 2020)

Sacramento Bee: California’s economic recovery is among the slowest in the nation. Here’s why (June 18, 2020)

San Francisco Public Press: Construction Ramps Up in S.F. — for Now (June 16, 2020)

HuffPost: Trump Administration Says It’s Not Forcing People Back To Work. Workers Disagree (June 13, 2020)

La Voz News: With no support students cannot continue to pay the same price for tuition (June 12, 2020)

KPCC: A Growing Number Of Laid-Off Californians Are Getting Back To Work (June 11, 2020)

Sacramento Bee: Jobs in California are coming back after coronavirus lockdown. But not for everyone (June 11, 2020)

San Jose Mercury News: Coronavirus: California unemployment claims rise for second straight week (June 11, 2020)

USA Today California Newsletter: Unemployment claims are down, but is that a good thing? (June 11, 2020)

Sacramento Bee: Pandemic unemployment benefit is set to expire. Will a back-to-work bonus replace it? (June 9, 2020)

Los Angeles Times: There’s a black jobs crisis. Coronavirus is making it worse (June 5, 2020)

Business Insider: Coronavirus layoffs have not been equal. Here are the workers that have been hit hardest by pandemic job losses (May 30, 2020)

PBS NewsHour: 3 charts reveal how the COVID-19 unemployment crisis isn’t over (May 29, 2020)

Sacramento Bee: How fast will Sacramento bounce back from mass layoffs? There’s pessimism, and a glimmer of hope (May 24, 2020)

Capital Public Radio: ‘Like Nothing Before Seen’: California Lost Record 2.3 Million Jobs In April As Unemployment Rate Spiked To 15.5% (May 22, 2020)

Sacramento Bee: These groups have been hit especially hard by California’s unemployment surge (May 26, 2020)

CNBC: How Unemployment Insurance Abroad Compares To The U.S. (May 22, 2020)

Sacramento Bee: Will laid-off California workers get their old jobs back? Most think they will (May 21, 2020)

KNX AM Radio: Interview with Till von Wachter (May 7, 2020)

Barrons: Laid-Off Workers Show Confidence They’ll Be Rehired (May 8, 2020)

Washington Post: 3.8 million Americans sought jobless benefits last week, extending pandemic’s grip on the national workforce (April 30, 2020)

538: Nearly 20 Percent Of The U.S. Labor Force Has Filed For Unemployment Since Mid-March (April 30, 2020)

San Jose Mercury News: Coronavirus unemployment: California jobless claim filings slow (April 30, 2020)

KPCC/LAist: Study Estimates 1 In 5 Californians Have Applied For Unemployment (April 30, 2020)

CalMatters: Which Californians are filing for unemployment insurance? (May 1, 2020)

Sacramento News and Review: After the COVID-19 pandemic, will the economy be better for workers? (April 29, 2020)

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