SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California’s unemployment rate continued to climb in May, reaching 16.3% as businesses struggle under a stay-at-home order meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus but that has ravaged the economy, according to data released Friday.
It’s the highest unemployment for the nation’s most populous state since the Great Depression more than 80 years ago. Nationally, 38 states saw their unemployment rates decline since April as officials begin loosening their stay-at-home orders and businesses began to open up again.
But the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found California’s rate increased from April when it was 15.5%. In the last year, the state has lost more than 2.2 million jobs — the largest decline in the country.
California has paid more than $30 billion in unemployment benefits since the start of the pandemic, according to the California Employment Development Department. The state has exhausted its account to pay these benefits, forcing it to borrow more than $2 billion from the federal government.
It’s a remarkable change for a state that, through February, was enjoying a 10-year economic expansion that saw the addition of more than 3.4 million jobs that accounted for 15% of the nation’s job growth. About two-thirds of those gains were wiped out in April as the state lost 2.3 million jobs and its unemployment rate hit double digits for the first time since the Great Recession a decade ago.
California, like most states, has relaxed its stay-at-home order to allow most businesses to open again, but with restrictions that in many cases limit how many customers they can serve. Most California counties now allow restaurants, retail stores, movie theaters, hotels, day camps and gyms to open.
But following a spike in new cases, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday ordered people to wear masks in most indoor settings and outdoors when physical distancing isn’t possible.
California has more than 167,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 5,300 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.