Pandemic Underscores the Plight of Undocumented Californians

California is home to more than 2 million undocumented immigrants, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Now, in the unprecedented economic and health emergency of COVID-19, undocumented Californians are among the most vulnerable.

Some immigrant advocacy groups are calling on the state to extend unemployment insurance and the earned income tax credit to undocumented workers to cushion the economic blow from job losses.

California unemployment: the causes and implications for the future

California’s unemployment rate is now nearly 3% higher than the national rate. In August 2010 California’s unemployment rate was 12.4% compared to the national 9.6% unemployment rate. The state’s unemployment was this much above the national rate once before in the early 1990s as a result of the large loss of aerospace jobs. The state’s job losses, then as now, were far larger than the national job losses and the state’s recovery took longer. Moreover, the aerospace job losses were permanent, not cyclical losses. Still by 2000 and for several years thereafter California’s unemployment rate was near the national average. What are the causes of the current high unemployment rates in California and what does that mean for the near and medium term economic future?

An army of the involuntarily under-employed

The number of unemployed in California, the rate of unemployment, the average duration of employment: all of these indicators have risen dramatically since 2007. However, there is a less-known job indicator that also has risen dramatically and may have more to do with stalling a job recovery in California than any other: the number of workers involuntarily working part-time.

On the line with unemployment

Go to your local unemployment office to get information about a claim and they will sit you at a bank of phones so you can call — the unemployment agency. You will wait on hold, and wait and wait and wait, and then get a person on the other end who will hang up on you if you make one false move. If this sounds crazy to you, read HIlary Abramson’s account of her Kafka-esque experience dealing with the EDD.

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