California unemployment is at pandemic low, a ‘milestone’ of recovery

California’s economic recovery accelerated in February as the state regained jobs lost to a terrible spike in COVID-19 in the winter, bringing the unemployment rate to its lowest level since the pandemic started the year. past, authorities said.

The state’s unemployment rate fell to 8.5% from 9.0% in January as employers added 141,000 jobs, according to state data released Friday.

“Today’s news, coupled with the Governor’s announcement this week that California continues to expand eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine, is a milestone in our ongoing recovery,” said Dee Dee Myers, director of the Office of Business and Governor’s Economic Development, and State Labor Secretary Julie A. Su said in a statement.

The February reversal recovered nearly 91% of the jobs lost in December and January, as a surge in the coronavirus and business closures negatively affected employment.

About a third of the job gains came in Los Angeles County, where small businesses were hit hard during the surge. They are now calling out workers as the state and county relax restrictions on the coronavirus, analysts said. Tourism-focused San Diego County provided an additional 23% of the jobs won.

The pent-up demand, the savings that some people have accumulated during the pandemic and the hot weather will continue to stimulate consumption and employment, especially in services, said Sung Won Sohn, an economist at Loyola Marymount University.

The state’s job market “still has a steep hill to climb” to return to the pre-pandemic, the high level of employment of a year ago, said Lynn Reaser, an economist at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. The unemployment rate for February is roughly double the 4.3% in February 2020, and the state has 1.6 million unemployed workers.

Myers and Su said unemployment continues to disproportionately affect women and communities of color. “Latino and Asian American workers have been hit hard on the front line as essential workers. African Americans have filed for unemployment benefits at staggering rates, further proof of the inequalities we must address to ensure a strong and equitable recovery, ”said his statement.

California officials lifted regional stay-at-home orders for coronavirus across the state in late January, and further restrictions were relaxed regionally earlier this month when the state hit a goal of vaccinating 2 million residents in its most disadvantaged areas. In Los Angeles County, restaurants, personal care salons and gyms have reopened indoors with limited capacity. In Orange County, Disneyland plans to reopen with limited capacity and some restrictions on April 30.

With the gradual reopening of the economy, job growth has recovered in a sector most affected during the pandemic: leisure and hospitality. Restaurants, bars, hotels, sporting events and other activities in this sector accounted for 72% of employment gains in February.

Economists said jobs will continue to come back overall, noting that in February vaccines were still limited and schools were closed. The leisure and hospitality sector has a long way to go to recover the cumulative number of jobs lost during the pandemic recession, with a drop of 689,300 jobs, or 33.9%, compared to February last year.

By reversing losses from previous months, California helped boost national labor earnings in February, accounting for more than 37% of net jobs added in the US during the month, according to an analysis by Taner Osman and Brian Vanderplas. from Beacon Economics in Los Angeles. Angels Still, the state’s job market continues to lag that of the nation, with the U.S. unemployment rate at 6.2% in February.

California has the third highest unemployment rate, tied with Connecticut after Hawaii and New York.

UCLA forecasters predicted earlier this month that the US and California economies will experience near-record growth this year as the pandemic subsides, due to expanding COVID-19 vaccination efforts and relief. federal attorney for businesses and workers in distress. However, experts say that job growth will be more bothersome: an initial increase in employment is expected as businesses reopen, but some layoffs will be permanent and many people will have a hard time re-entering the workforce. .

Many Californians are still not comfortable returning to work, which will affect employers’ ability to fill open positions, said David Smith, an economics professor at the Pepperdine Graziadio School of Business. The state “has a lot of ground to cover,” he said.

Unemployment claims filed this month underscore the recovery challenge that lies ahead, said Michael Bernick, former director of the state’s Employment Development Department. Data released Thursday showed 95,863 new claims filed in California during the week ending March 20, which is at the low end of claims during the pandemic, but still more than double the rate in pre-pandemic months.

Before the lockdowns began in mid-March of last year, the week ending March 7 registered 43,385 claims. The following week, March 14, claims rose to 57,606. The week ending March 21, 2020 registered 186,333 claims.

Revenues and small business reopenings were down by about 30% compared to January 2020, before the pandemic began, and have shown no signs of improvement since last fall, Bernick said: small businesses are the most worrying. ”

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