December 8th Analysis of Unemployment Insurance Claims in California During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Background: 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, 2020. Through a partnership with the Labor Market Information Division of the California Employment Development Department, the California Policy Lab 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.

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Re-Employment, Recall, and Industry Transitions for CA Workers before and during the Pandemic

Published December 8, 2021
By Alex Bell, Thomas J. Hedin, Peter Mannino, Roozbeh Moghadam, Carl Romer, Geoffrey Schnorr and Till von Wachter

POLICY REPORT: December 8th Analysis of Unemployment Insurance Claims in California During the COVID-19 Pandemic PDF

PRESS RELEASE: Report Sheds Light on Re-Employment, Recall, and Industry Transitions for CA Workers before and during the Pandemic

Key Research Findings

1. Re-employment rates in the four quarters since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 have steadily increased, but remain lower than the pre-pandemic expansion time period, especially for lower-educated workers. 57% of workers who were fully separated from their employer in Q2 2020 were employed one year later, in Q2, 2021. In comparison, 71% of people who claimed UI before the pandemic (in Q4 2018) were re-employed a year later, though these periods are in different parts of the business cycle.

2. Re-employment and recall among those reemployed in Q2 2021 was unevenly distributed among UI claimants. Black workers, younger workers, lower-educated workers, men, and workers in the Administrative & Support and Food Service industries were less likely to be re-employed and less likely to be recalled to their previous employer.

3. Older workers had lower rates of industry transitions possibly reflecting specialization in industry-specific skills that make it difficult to change industries. Similarly, less educated workers have lower transition rates across industries, possibly reflecting the importance of education in adapting to new fields.

4. Industry transitions are sometimes characterized by moves across industries with similar skills. The top destination for claimants from Food & Accommodation was Retail Trade and the top destination for Professional, Science, and Technology claimants was Information. The fact that workers from the hardest hit sectors in the pandemic typically find jobs in those same sectors may be hindering the path to recovery, especially for low-wage workers.

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