California's unemployment rate soared to 15.5% in April, 2.3M jobs lost

California's unemployment rate soared to 15.5% in April as the nation's most populous state lost 2.3 million jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- California's unemployment rate soared to 15.5% in April as the nation's most populous state lost 2.3 million jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic that shuttered most businesses.

The state's unemployment rate increased 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.

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It broke the record set in March. And it shows, just one month after the pandemic took hold, that California had already surpassed the 12.3% unemployment rate it reached during the Great Recession a decade ago.

Still, the numbers released Friday by the California Employment Development Department only tell part of the story. The report is based on a survey conducted the week of April 12. Many more have lost their jobs since then, with the department reporting 5.1 million people have filed for unemployment benefits since March.

The surge of claims has exhausted the state's unemployment trust fund, forcing it to borrow billions of dollars from the federal government. Department Director Sharon Hilliard says the agency is preparing to hire an additional 1,800 people to handle the claims. But she said to answer all of the department's phone calls it would need a staff of 28,000 full-time employees working from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.

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The unemployment rates for the counties in Central California in April were also released on Friday.

Tulare County led the Valley with a reported 19% jobless. Merced County reported 18.8% are unemployed; Mariposa County recorded a 17.8% unemployment rate. Kings County reported 16.8%; Fresno County reported 16.7%, and Madera County recorded 16.6%.

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