Unemployment claims in California rose to their highest level in five months last week, raising uncertainty about the strength of the statewide economy’s recovery from the pandemic.
The US Labor Department reported Thursday that California workers filed 75,800 initial claims for unemployment during the week ending Sept. 18, an increase of 24,200 from the previous week.
The total number of claims is the highest number of jobless filings since the week ending April 24 – nearly five months ago – when the total number of jobless claims for that week stood at 78,600.
This is the biggest one-week increase since April 3, when the number of unemployed increased by 39,100 in seven days.
Nationwide, workers filed 351,000 initial claims for unemployment last week, an increase of 16,000 from the 335,000 that workers filed in the week before, the Labor Department reported.
The 75,800 claims filed last week are 69% higher than the average weekly totals for January 2020 and February 2020, the last two months before government agencies ordered widespread business shutdowns to combat the spread of the coronavirus. During those two months, unemployment claims averaged 44,800 per week.
In a research report, Contingent Macro Advisors concluded that the recent surge in applications for unemployment benefits – particularly in California and Virginia last week – likely reflects a technical problem in processing claims: “For now, the past The jump in claims in two weeks is not alarming yet, but it is certainly being closely monitored in the coming weeks.”
America’s employers have sharply increased their hiring since the pandemic wiped out 22 million jobs in March and April 2020 as the pandemic – and the shutdowns that were meant to contain it – brought economic activity to a near standstill. Since then, the economy has recovered nearly 17 million jobs as the rollout of vaccines encouraged businesses to expand opening and hours and encouraged Americans to go back to shopping, traveling and dining.
But hiring, which has created an average of more than 585,000 jobs this year, slowed to just 235,000 in August as the Delta variant hampered the recovery. Restaurants and bars cut nearly 42,000 jobs last month as COVID-19 cases emerged.
Overall, 2.8 million Americans were receiving unemployment benefits during the week of September 11, a 131,000 increase from the previous week.
Earlier this month, more than 8 million people lost all their unemployment benefits with the end of two federal programs, which included gig workers and those unemployed for more than six months. Those emergency programs were created in March last year to help ease the economic hardship caused by the pandemic.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.