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Policy Report Demography & Population Studies

Jobless During A Global Pandemic: The Disparate Impact of COVID-19 on Workers of Color in the World’s Fifth Largest Economy

LPPI examines the California labor force to identify workers who are jobless as a result of COVID-19. This report assesses these workers’ ability to access unemployment benefits, especially along racial and ethnic disparities.




COVID-19’s direct and direct disruptions are creating enormous financial hardships to workers, families, businesses, and communities. This report examines the California labor force Рboth salary and wage earners Рto identify workers who are jobless as a result of COVID-19, and the direction and magnitude of racial and ethnic disparities. An important distinction among COVID-19 jobless individuals is whether they receive unemployment benefits. The reliance on on unemployment insurance benefits, a system that is less-equipped to protect low-wage workers in the services sector, excludes undocumented workers and other vulnerable workers, including those new to the labor force and those with low wages. As a result, millions of Californians are left further exposed to hardship during the pandemic.  

Key Findings:

  • California led the nation in the number of jobs lost as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with over 3 million Californians losing their jobs.¬†
  • Over 900,000 displaced Californians had withdrawn from the labor market as a result of the pandemic.¬†
  • Roughly 1 million Californians, representing 27% of all jobless individuals, are not covered by Unemployment Insurance.¬†
  • Latino and Black residents had jobless rates of 22% and 26%, respectively, compared to only 17% for white and Asian residents.¬†
  • While Latinos make up over a third of individuals covered by Unemployment Insurance, they represent over half of all jobless individuals that are not covered by Unemployment Insurance.¬†
  • Undocumented immigrants comprise over a third to nearly half, or between 350,000 to 500,000, of the non-UI covered jobless individuals.¬†