An unemployment rate that has “skyrocketed” could leave one-fourth of California’s workforce without jobs — akin to the rates during the Great Depression — Gov. Gavin Newsom warned Monday in a forbidding assessment about how the coronavirus has wrecked the state’s once booming economy.
“Unemployment numbers” in California “will be north of 20 percent,” Newsom said during a regular briefing to discuss the state’s war against the deadly bug. The state’s Employment Development Department (EDD) is due to release the latest official unemployment rate for California on May 22.
California has received a jaw-dropping 4.5 million unemployment claims since mid-March when state and local government agencies began to impose business shutdowns and other mandates in a quest to combat the coronavirus, the governor said.
The 4.5 million in unemployment claims represent 23.3 percent of the current California workforce of 19.3 million. It’s likely that at least some of those who filed claims have since returned to work or found a new job.
“Unemployment has skyrocketed in this state,” Newsom said.
The governor also warned that 20 percent might not represent the worst of it for the unemployment rate.
“Getting closer to 22, 23, 24, 25 (percent),” the governor said, is “very likely.”
At the nadir of the Great Depression in 1933, the nation’s unemployment rate reached 24.9 percent.
Since March 12, the EDD has distributed $13.1 billion in payments to workers who have filed unemployment claims, the governor said. About $3.4 billion of that was paid out just last week, he said.
The great majority of California’s economy continues to function, despite being hobbled by the government mandates, the governor said.
“Over 70 percent of the economy in California is open,” Newsom said.
As claims pour in, workers in the Bay Area reported on Monday that they are still unable to connect with the EDD, which has been buried beneath the avalanche of unemployment filings and benefit requests.
“The EDD was completely unprepared for this,” said Thomas Glazis, a Milpitas resident who has been trying without success to reach the EDD’s main numbers.
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