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Coronavirus pushes California unemployment claims to 80,000 in a day

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As the coronavirus hammers the economy, Californians are losing their jobs and boosting the pace of unemployment claims as much as 40-fold.

The latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that in the week ended March 14 Californians filed 58,208 initial claims for jobless benefits — an increase of 34% in a week and up 42% vs. a year earlier.

The state’s no outlier. Nationwide, 250,892 claims were filed in the same period — up 25% in a week and an increase of 29% in a year.

These increases are the tip of the iceberg. In a speech Wednesday evening, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state had received 80,000 unemployment applications just on Tuesday alone.

“We average about 2,000 unemployment insurance claims a day,” Newsom said. “Two days ago or three days, we saw about 40,000 applications. After that 70,000 applications. Yesterday, 80,000 unemployment applications.”

In the latest official count for the week ended March 14, California topped all states for claims.

The state’s 58,208 claims led the nation followed by the District of Columbia at 16,120; Washington state, hard hit by coronavirus, at 14,846 and North Carolina at 14,413.

California’s one-week jump of 14,823 was also a national high. Next was Washington state at 8,230, then New Hampshire at 4,192 and Michigan at 2,696.

Even accounting for California’s huge job market, the 34% one-week jump was big on a percentage basis, ranking No. 12. Tops? New Hampshire up 182%; Washington at 124%; Florida at 120%; and Nevada at 59%.

Initial claims are seen as a good early indicator of job losses. But it’s by no means a perfect measure of folks out of work.

Not everyone who’s out of work qualifies for lost-job benefits, such as freelancers and sole proprietors. Not everyone who qualifies applies quickly for these benefits. Not every applicant qualifies for aid.

That means filing tallies can vary widely week to week. Plus, the stats have seasonal influences, such as the ups and downs of holiday staffing.

Still, it’s may serve as the best real-time pulse we have on unemployment. March data on California’s overall employment picture — the unemployment rate and job growth — is scheduled to be released in mid-April.

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