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Coronavirus Jobs: Millions Of Californians File For Unemployment; Dire Predictions Of What's Ahead

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- At least 3.2 million Californians have filed for unemployment since the coronvirus outbreak began with about one in six American workers having lost their jobs in the past five weeks.

During his Wednesday coronavirus daily update, Gov. Gavin Newsom made the grim employment announcement about the state's economic state in the wake of a non-essential business shutdown.

The food service industry has been particularly devastated with restaurants and cafes shutting down across the Bay Area and thousands of workers laid off or furloughed.

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"Just last week, $2 billion in unemployment insurance claims were dispersed, just in one week," the governor said.

By some estimates, one out of every six Californians was now out of work. The trend was being repeated across the county. Federal labor officials announced that more than 4.4 million laid-off workers applied for U.S. unemployment benefits just last week.

Roughly 26 million people across the country have now filed for jobless aid in the five weeks since the coronavirus outbreak began forcing millions of employers to close their doors.

Like California, about one in six American workers have lost their jobs in the past five weeks, by far the worst string of layoffs on record. That's more than the number of people who live in the 10 largest U.S. cities combined.

Economists have forecast that the unemployment rate for April could go as high as 20%.

"It shows devastation and massive job losses are continuing. They haven't stopped," said employment and labor attorney Michael Bernick of Duane Morris Law Firm and former director of the California Employment Development Department.

Amir Davallou, a construction worker who's been unemployed since mid-March, says he hasn't received any benefits because of a backlog in claims processed by the EDD.

"Me and my wife, we don't even go shopping for anything," said Davallou. "The numbers keep going up. It's not going to get less. If the backlog is now let's say 100,000 today then tomorrow it's going to be more and more."

The more than 530,000 new unemployment claims in California this week show the continuing collapse of the economy for small and large companies. EDD said the unemployment claim number is a more than 1000 percent increase compared to the same time last year.

"In terms of unemployment rate we're already above the 12.8 percent rate we saw during the Great Recession. Now we're in uncharted territory," said Bernick. "As long as this shutdown continues until we begin to open up the economy we'll continue to see these kinds of job losses."

Starting next Tuesday, Independent contractors will be able to file for unemployment. Some economists predict that will significantly add to the numbers of new claims.

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