OAKLAND, Calif. - With 36.8 million Americans out of work due to the nine-week coronavirus shutdown, at 17.2%, the national unemployment rate is now almost three times greater than in the deepest depth of the Great Recession.
While the weekly number of new U.S. unemployment claims is edging down nationally, California continues to go up.
"We had 246,000 new claims filed. That was up from 212,000 the previous week," said labor lawyer Mike Bernick a former Employment and Development Department director who also said that job losses already exceed expert estimates made in March and April.
That puts the recently invincible California economy with more than 4 million claims since March. On top of that, an additional 560,000 California's independent contractors, who don't qualify for state unemployment benefits, have filed for have applied for Federal Pandemic Assistance.
Weighed against the size of California's 19.5 million person workforce, the state's effective unemployment rate is in the vicinity of 20 to 21%, far more than the nation's 17.2 percent.
"What today's numbers show is that far from having stopped, the devastation is still large," said Bernick.
Other states that have pretty much opened up their economies including; Texas, Georgia and Kentucky have seen claims decline substantially.
"It's only when we open the economy confidently, that we're gonna see a drop in UI claims and increases in jobs," said Bernick.
Confidence is key, says Sylvia Allegretto, a labor economist at UC Berkeley's Institute for Research on Labor and Employment.
"Most workers, this is from surveys, do not feel like they're safe to go back to work. Consumers are not feeling safe," said Ms. Allegretto. And, make no mistake worker confidence in their jobs and consumer confidence is rejoining the economy can only come from one place now. "We need massive relief from the U.S. government and it's coming too slow for many people," said Allegretto.
Getting massive aid out now, gives us a fighting chance in uncharted waters.
"As we start opening up in California and around the country, it's not gonna be, as far as I understand for another two, three, four, five weeks until we see what's actually going to take place," said Allegretto.
It took the U.S. more than six years to fully recover from the Great Recession and then rocket forward to January. Compared to the coronavirus shutdown, the Great Recession was more like a minor cold.