California's April jobless rate higher than Great Recession

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FILE - In this March 13, 2020, file photo, unionized hospitality workers wait in line in a basement garage to apply for unemployment benefits at the Hospitality Training Academy in Los Angeles. California's unemployment rate nearly tripled in April because of the economic fallout from coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California's unemployment rate nearly tripled to 15.5% in April as the nation's most populous state lost more jobs in one month from the coronavirus than it did during the Great Recession a decade ago, state data released Friday showed.

Just two months ago, California was boasting an unprecedented economic expansion as it added more than 3.4 million jobs over 10 years, accounting for 15% of the nation's job growth. More than two-thirds of those gains were wiped out last month as the state lost 2.3 million jobs.

California accounted for 11.4% of all jobs lost nationwide in April as the unemployment rate jumped 10.2 percentage points since March, the largest one month rise since 1976 when the state began using its current formula to measure job losses. All of the state's 11 industry sectors saw declines in April, led by leisure and hospitality with more than 866,000.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate reached 14.7% as all 50 states plus the District of Columbia reported increased job losses, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The California joblessness statistics released by the state Employment Development Department only tell part of the story because the report is based on a survey conducted the week of April 12.

Many more California residents have lost their jobs since then, with the department reporting 5.1 million people have filed for unemployment benefits since March.

“Businesses that have tried to hold on to workers are deciding that they can’t do so any longer, others are deciding that they can’t stay open with the uncertain future,” said Michael Bernick, former director of the state employment agency and now a lawyer with the firm Duane Morris. “It is only when we have a confident, aggressive reopening in California that we can expect the job reconstruction to truly begin.”

California has been under a mandatory, statewide stay-at-home order since March 19. But Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, recently has modified the order to allow many businesses to reopen if they follow certain safety measures.