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Policy Report COVID-19

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 – both salary and wage earners – to 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  • Over 900,000 displaced Californians had withdrawn from the labor market as a result of the pandemic.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.