Initial unemployment claims in California jumped last week, remaining far above typical levels and raising uncertainty about the statewide recovery from coronavirus-linked maladies.
California workers filed about 68,100 jobless claims last week, up 2,600 from the previous week, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday.
Unemployment claims statewide have now increased four consecutive weeks and are at their highest levels in three months.
In contrast to California jobless claims, unemployment filings in the United States fell and are at their lowest levels since the onset of government-ordered business lockdowns to help combat the spread of the coronavirus.
U.S. workers filed 348,000 initial unemployment claims for the week ending on Aug. 14, a decrease of 29,000 from the week before.
The jobless filings that were posted last week in California are 52% higher than the last time the statewide economy was deemed to be healthy.
During January 2020 and February 2020, the final two months before the onset of shutdowns to battle the deadly bug, unemployment claims averaged 44,800 a week in California, this news organization’s analysis of the filings shows.
The weekly pace of applications for unemployment aid has fallen more or less steadily since topping 900,000 in early January. The dwindling number of first-time jobless claims has coincided with the widespread administering of vaccines, which has led businesses to reopen or expand their hours and drawn consumers back to shops, restaurants, airports and entertainment venues.
Still, the number of applications remains high by historic standards: Before the pandemic tore through the economy in March 2020, the weekly pace amounted to around 220,000 a week. And now there is growing concern that the highly contagious delta variant could disrupt the economy’s recovery from last year’s brief but intense recession. Some economists have already begun to mark down their estimates for growth this quarter as some measures of economic activity, like air travel, have started to weaken.
Filings for unemployment benefits have traditionally been seen as a real-time measure of the job market’s health. But their reliability has deteriorated during the pandemic. In many states, the weekly figures have been inflated by fraud and by multiple filings from unemployed Americans as they navigate bureaucratic hurdles to try to obtain benefits. Those complications help explain why the pace of applications remains comparatively high.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.