Who is hit hardest by California’s job losses that are far worse than the Great Recession? Women and people of color. In only two months – between February and April of this year – California lost 2.6 million jobs. That’s twice as many jobs as California lost during the Great Recession over almost three years. Senior Policy Analyst Alissa Anderson shares more about what the job losses mean for Californians and what policymakers can do to extend support needed now.
Californians working in low-paying industries were more likely to lose their jobs since the COVID-19 economic crisis began. Low-paying industries saw a 26.8% decline in jobs from February to April, a loss of over 1.5 million private-sector jobs. This accounts for roughly 62% of private-sector jobs lost.
Choosing between paying the bills or caring for their families has never been an easy choice for California workers. COVID-19 health and economic conditions have only exacerbated that dilemma. The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act temporarily addresses workers’ lack of paid time off in the United States but exemptions for employers still leave many workers, many of whom earn low wages, at heightened risk of COVID-19 exposure. Meanwhile, California’s family and medical leave laws bring limitations for households, and these barriers are particularly acute for workers with low wages – disproportionately women, Black, and Latinx workers.
California is home to an estimated 2 to 3.1 million individuals who are undocumented immigrants, making up approximately 6% of the state’s total population. These workers, parents, children, and their family members – many of whom are US-born citizens – are deeply integrated in the state’s communities and vital to the state’s economy. California’s undocumented workers are especially hard-hit by the economic effects of the COVID-19 crisis, and yet they are locked out of most of the federal and state public supports available to help workers and their families weather this pandemic.
Millions of California workers have lost jobs or seen their work hours significantly cut back as a result of the public health measures that state and local governments have put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19. While necessary to protect the state’s health care system and mitigate the spread of infection, these disruptions seriously threaten the economic stability of a significant share of California workers – and their families. Yet these disruptions do not affect all Californians equally, with a greater burden on California workers with less education, those who are immigrants, and California’s children and adults of color.