California added a record 558,000 jobs in June as many more businesses reopened but the gains announced Friday by the state are expected to be short-lived because of new closures put into effect in July as the coronavirus surged.
The unemployment rate fell to 14.9%, a staggeringly high figure that remains above the level reached at the height of the Great Recession a decade ago. But it’s a marked improvement from the record 16.4% in April and May.
Michael Bernick, an employment attorney at Duane Morris and former director of the state’s Employment Development Department, said California adds 20,000 to 30,000 jobs in a typically strong month so June’s performance was incredibly robust. The state gained back a quarter of the jobs it lost in March and April due to business shutdowns driven by the pandemic, according to state data.
“This morning’s numbers show a picture of what’s possible,” he said. “The sobering element is that since then we haven’t reopened more widely. In fact, we’ve gone the other way.”
California, the nation’s most populous state, added significantly more jobs in June than any other state. The national unemployment rate was 11.1%, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
California’s leisure and hospitality industries added nearly 300,000 jobs in June, the largest of any sector. Restaurants, bars and the food industry gained back about a third of jobs lost due to the pandemic. But much of those gains are expected to evaporate since Gov. Gavin Newsom recently ordered the statewide closure of all bars and indoor dining at restaurants, along with malls, movie theaters, gyms and other indoor businesses.
California started 2020 with record low unemployment around 4% but since the pandemic hit more than 6.5 million Californians have field for unemployment benefits.
Chris Hamrock, a hair salon owner in Long Beach, is one of those Californians. Hamrock, the sole income earner for his family of four, wants Congress to extend the extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits that is set to expire later this month. He gets $400 per week from the state, which he said isn’t enough to live in Southern California. His rent is $1,750 per month.
“There’s so many people right now in California who are going to need that,” he said.
Hamrock’s salon, where he rents booths to other independent stylists, began opening last month at California eased virus restrictions. But he’s been forced to shut it down again under Newsom’s new orders.
Leah Hurley, of Sacramento, felt things were finally looking up at the start of June, when she started two part time jobs at restaurants and a part-time administrative job. She had lost her job as a server in March. Now, those restaurant jobs are gone.
“I kind of went from, ‘I don’t have enough money, I’m just waiting to see what happens,’ to ‘Here are all these jobs. Everything’s going to be OK,’” she said. “Back to, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen, hoping the $600 gets extended.’”
“It’s been a whirlwind rollercoaster,” she added.
Hurley, 32, said she has been able to cover her rent and groceries and was able to put some bill payments on hold, although she thinks creditors might start asking for checks again as more people get back to work nationwide.
The only two sectors of the economy that lost jobs in June were mining and logging and government, with the latter losing about 36,000 jobs. Behind leisure and hospitality, trade, transportation and utilities gained 97,000 jobs. Education and health services gained 84,000. Still, every single sector had fewer jobs in June than it did in June 2019.
Some parts of the state are faring better than others. In Los Angeles, the state’s largest county that’s been hard hit by the virus, the unemployment rate in June topped 19%. But in San Francisco, the unemployment rate was 12.5%.
Associated Press reporter Cuneyt Dil contributed.