As the economy nationwide continues to be battered by the fallout from shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic, California’s unemployment has now reached its highest point since August 2016, according to a new analysis.


Unemployment increased 1.4 percentage points to 5.3% since the coronavirus outbreak began. Since March 14, more than 2.1 million Californians have filed unemployment claims, with a peak of over one million claims filed during the week ending March 28. California’s labor force has declined 0.5% over the last year, while household employment fell 1.6%.


“While the current report paints a bleak enough picture, unfortunately, things are likely even worse, and have very likely become much worse in April,” said Taner Osman, research manager at Beacon Economics and the UC Riverside School of Business Center for Economic Forecasting and Development, which jointly published the analysis.

The report shows Southern California experienced the most job losses, with Los Angeles County leading the region with payrolls falling by 39,600 last month. Orange County and San Diego experienced declines of 16,500 and 14,500, respectively.


The state’s total nonfarm payrolls declined by nearly 100,000 in March, the largest month-to-month decline since the peak of the Great Recession. Despite this decline, the state increased payrolls by 150,400 jobs, or 0.9%, over the last year, according to the analysis.


A majority of job losses were in the leisure and hospitality sector, where 67,200 jobs were lost. Construction posted the second most jobs lost at 11,600. Manufacturing and administrative support reported 4,800 and 4,400 job losses, respectively. Meanwhile, the government posted the most job gains by increasing payrolls by 5,200.


Nationwide, more than 16.5 million Amiricans have filed unemployment claims since March 14.


“Just how quickly employment growth returns will depend on when stay-at-home orders are lifted, and when the state’s residents feel comfortable resuming their normal activities,” Osman said. “But at this point, we can’t put a timeline on when this will happen.”

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.