May 21st 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. 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.

The Policy Briefs are updated on a monthly basis.

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May 21st Policy Brief

By Thomas J. Hedin,Geoffrey Schnorr and Till von Wachter

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.

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