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As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, California has experienced an unprecedented rise in unemployment. Through March and April, the key measure that captured the impact of the virus on the state’s workers was the number of new unemployment claims being filed each week. Going forward, this number will still be important as a gauge of whether a second wave of business closures and layoffs is emerging. Equally important going forward, however, will be the level of continued claims—the total number of people receiving unemployment benefits in a given week. Should continue claims start to decline, it could signal that some businesses are bringing workers back. Should continued claims remain steady or keep rising, however, it could signal that a V-shaped recovery may be less likely.

Number of Newly Processed Claims Continues to Fall. California processed 201,640 claims for regular unemployment insurance between August 9 and August 15. The number of claims processed remains high, but has fallen four weeks in a row. Weekly claims since mid-March have remained well above the record high prior to the COVID-19 outbreak of 115,462 in 2010.

Traditional Continued Claims Inch Upward to 3.5 Million. As of August 15, California had 3.5 million employees receiving traditional unemployment benefits, reaching a new peak since EDD began releasing this information earlier in the year. After accounting for self-employement claims, discussed below, the total number of workers receiving unemployment benefits in the state reached a new peak of 4.8 million last week.

Self-Employment Continued Claims Rise to 1.4 Million This Week. As of August 15, California had 1.4 million self-employed workers receiving unemployment benefits under Pandemic Unemployment Assistance—a new program created to expand eligibility for unemployment insurance to self-employed workers. While the number of traditional unemployment claims has remained relatively steady over the past month, the number of self-employed workers receiving benefits has continued to climb, as shown in the figure below. Due to these diverging trends, self-employed workers receiving unemployment benefits now make up more than one-quarter of all workers receiving benefits.


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