California unemployment claims jump while US numbers fall

California’s battered job market has yet to fully heal from its coronavirus-induced afflictions, as sketched out by a federal report released Thursday that shows unemployment claims remain abnormally high.

Workers in California filed 67,200 initial claims for unemployment benefits for the week ending Oct. 9, an increase of 3,200 from the 64,000 claims filed in the week ending Oct. 2, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday.

In January 2020 and February 2020, the final two months before state and local government agencies ordered the lockdowns to curb the spread of the deadly bug, unemployment claims averaged 44,800 a week in California.

The 67,200 jobless claims filed last week in California were 50% higher than the average reported in early 2020.

Read more: 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs at a record pace in August

The U.S. number of claims fell to its lowest level since the pandemic began, dropping 36,000 to 293,000, the second straight drop.

That’s the smallest number of people applying for benefits since the week of March 14, 2020, when the pandemic intensified, and the first time claims have dipped below 300,000.

The decline in layoffs comes amid an otherwise unusual job market. Hiring has slowed in the past two months, even as companies and other employers have posted a near-record number of open jobs. Businesses are struggling to find workers as about three million people who lost jobs and stopped looking for work since the pandemic have yet to resume their job searches. Economists hoped more people would find work in September as schools reopened, easing child care constraints, and enhanced unemployment aid ended nationwide.

But the pickup didn’t happen, with employers adding just 194,000 jobs last month. In a bright spot, the unemployment rate fell to 4.8% from 5.2%, though some of that decline occurred because many of those out of work stopped searching for jobs, and were no longer counted as unemployed. The proportion of women working or looking for work fell in September, likely because of difficulties finding child care or because of schools disrupted by COVID-19 outbreaks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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