LA's Latest Unemployment Numbers Are Staggering. An Estimated 1.3M Jobs Have Already Been Lost

Chart shows a rise in the state unemployment rate through last month. L.A. County went from 4.3% in February to 6.3% in the latest report. (Courtesy of the State of California EDD)

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New data continues to show unprecedented job losses in Los Angeles.

By one estimate, the coronavirus pandemic has already claimed 1.3 million jobs in L.A. County. Only 45% of local residents are still employed, compared with 61% in mid-March.

Those numbers come from new survey results collected by researchers at USC, who find that workers in Los Angeles are faring worse than those nationwide.

"In L.A., there was a certain level of insecurity to begin with, and it has increased a little bit more than it has in the national average," said USC's Jill Darling, survey director for the Understanding America Study.

WHAT THE OFFICIAL STATS SHOW

Official government statistics don't yet paint the full picture of local unemployment. But they're still grim.

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Labor released its weekly unemployment report, showing that 660,966 Californians filed for unemployment, down from 918,814 the week before. All told, about one in seven California workers have now filed for unemployment.

But those numbers are only current up to April 11. And they only include unemployment filings, excluding many out-of-work Californians who have not filed. Some may be self-employed and still waiting for their chance to apply. Others may not be eligible due to their immigration status.

In another view, California's Economic Development Department (EDD) released its latest unemployment report on Friday, showing that L.A. County's unemployment rate jumped from 4.3% in February to 6.3% in March.

L.A.'s leisure and hospitality sector — including hotels, restaurants and entertainment — took the biggest hit, losing 20,000 jobs compared with the previous month. That was the sector's biggest drop going back two decades.

But EDD's latest numbers come from surveys taken the week of March 12, before business closures had fully taken effect.


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A TOUGHER TIME GETTING BENEFITS

Researchers at USC's Understanding America Study are also surveying workers directly to get a better picture of unemployment.

They've been contacting a group of nearly 5,500 adults across the country to get a more real-time understanding of job loss nationally and in L.A. County.

Their latest results — from the period of April 1-14 — show a deepening unemployment problem across the country, and especially in L.A.

Since the last round of survey results (which looked at the period from March 10-31), employment levels have fallen by 10% nationally. But in L.A., employment fell by 16%, leaving less than half of L.A. County residents employed.

Tracking data from the period March 10-31 will be added to our tracking graphs soon. The colored bands around each line represent margins of error (95% confidence intervals). To view point estimates, ranges, and sample sizes (N) for a given day, hover your mouse over your data point of interest. You can also click on the data labels below the graph to hide and un-hide specific trend lines. The survey questions, topline data, and data files are available at UASdata.usc.edu

L.A. workers are having a tougher time getting unemployment benefits. Only one-quarter of recently unemployed L.A. residents are now receiving unemployment insurance, compared with 36% nationally.

One-third of Angelenos say they'll run out of money within the next three months, and 22% think they'll lose their job, significantly higher than the national averages.

National survey results also find that black and Latino workers are more likely than white workers to have recently lost their jobs — a result that could disproportionately affect L.A.'s diverse workforce.

Survey director Darling said L.A. may be harder hit due to high concentrations of service sector jobs in areas like tourism, hotels and restaurants.

"These sectors tend to have relatively large percentages of workers who are lower income, lower education, and sometimes have higher proportions of people who are minorities," Darling said. "Those are the groups who have been hardest hit in our survey."

YEARS OF JOB GAINS COULD BE WIPED OUT

One potentially hopeful finding in the survey is that most people — about two-thirds — described their job loss as a temporary lay-off. Those who remain connected to their employers could quickly return to work once businesses are able to re-open.

But still, the job losses represent a swift end to California's longest streak of job gains on record. In the wake of the Great Recession, California gained a total of 3.4 million jobs. But the coronavirus could wipe that out in a matter of weeks. Already, 2.7 million Californians have filed for unemployment.