California’s embattled labor agency is chipping away at a backlog of unemployment claims unleashed by the onset of coronavirus-linked business shutdowns, a state report shows.
The logjam of California workers awaiting payment of their unemployment claims has fallen below 1 million for the first time since March, according to the state Employment Development. March is the month that state and local government agencies began to order business shutdowns to combat the spread of the deadly bug.
For months, the backlog of unpaid or unresolved unemployment claims in California has been well above 1 million, reaching as high as 1.44 million in March, 1.8 million at the end of May, and 1.56 million at the end of September, according to an EDD estimate.
However, during the week that ended on Oct. 28, the number of backlogged claims totaled 946,100, the EDD reported through a special dashboard set up to track the agency’s progress in paying workers who filed claims.
In a separate release Thursday, 152,400 California workers filed initial claims for unemployment last week, the U.S. Labor Department reported.
The most recent number for first-time jobless claims in California was up by about 250 claims from the prior week.
“California’s new claims numbers remain very high, as they have for the past two months,” said Michael Bernick, an employment attorney with Duane Morris and a former director of the EDD.
Nationwide, workers filed 751,000 initial unemployment claims during the week that ended on Oct. 31, a decline of 7,000 from the prior week, the Labor Department reported.
The number of jobless claims filed in California last week accounted for more than one out of every five — 20.3% — of all the first-time unemployment claims filed nationwide.
California lags the nation when it comes to recovering a historic number of jobs the state lost after the economy was partly shuttered to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Bernick believes that the labor market will remain dismal in California through the end of 2020.
“The next two months in California are unlikely to see significant upticks in new hiring or business re-openings,” Bernick said.