The numbers are irrefutable: Many Californians aren’t going back to work.
Although the Golden State created a whopping 44% of the nation’s new jobs last month, its unemployment rate remained the second-highest in the country at 7.5%, according to figures released Friday by the state Employment Development Department. That’s essentially unchanged from the 7.6% unemployment rate California notched in both July and June — and hardly different from the 7.7% rate in May, a month before the state ended most coronavirus restrictions and fully reopened its economy.
- Gov. Gavin Newsom: “We still have more work to do in regaining those jobs lost to the pandemic, but this is promising progress for California’s economic recovery.”
Nearly half of the 104,300 payroll jobs California added in August were government positions, a reflection of public schools desperately trying to fill teacher and substitute teacher shortages as kids return to campus. Santa Ana Unified School District, for example, is hiring so many people that its understaffed human resources department hasn’t been able to process payments quickly enough, forcing more than 100 educators to go without pay for more than a month.
Some experts had predicted that the federal government’s Sept. 4 cutoff of expanded unemployment benefits for 2.2 million Californians would prompt people to reenter the workforce, but there hasn’t been a noticeable shift so far. Around 55,000 Californians filed new jobless claims for the week ending Sept. 11, a decrease of fewer than 3,000 people from the week before, federal data show. And the Golden State lost more than 6,000 education and health services payroll jobs in August, exacerbating an already dire nurse shortage.
In a bid to attract new workers, the beloved Sacramento-area sushi restaurant Mikuni expanded benefits and hosted a job fair — but saw only three applicants. Eight of its nine locations will now close Mondays due to the staffing shortage.
The pandemic has hit working women especially hard. More than 40,000 women nationwide dropped out of the labor force between July and August as coronavirus outbreaks closed schools and the low-paying child care sector remained short nearly 127,000 workers.
- Diane Barber, executive director of the Pennsylvania Child Care Association: “It’s this Catch-22. We don’t have the staff, so we can’t open the classrooms, so families can’t go back to work because they can’t find child care.”
Podcast: CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall and Ben Christopher break down what Newsom’s easy win in the recall election means for the 2022 gubernatorial race. Listen here.
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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Saturday, California had 4,415,892 confirmed cases (+0.2% from previous day) and 67,608 deaths (+0.2% from previous day), according to state data.
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Other stories you should know
1. Two of Newsom’s children have COVID
Two of Newsom’s four children tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday and are quarantining, while the governor, his wife and their two other children have since tested negative, the governor’s press office said Friday night. The announcement came at a rather ironic moment: Newsom, fresh off his victory over the recall election, is emphasizing the role his tough pandemic measures played in Californians voting overwhelmingly to keep him in office, CalMatters’ Sameea Kamal reports. While California on Sunday had the lowest coronavirus case rate in the nation, it’s unclear how strictly health precautions are being followed in some parts of the state. San Francisco Mayor London Breed, for example, was photographed dancing and singing maskless in a Tenderloin nightclub on Wednesday — violating city rules that require masks indoors except when actively eating or drinking.
- Breed: “I got up and started dancing, because I was feeling the spirit. And I wasn’t thinking about a mask. I was thinking about having a good time, and in the process, I was following the health orders.”
The contradictions in Breed’s response illuminate the difficulty in crafting logical health rules that protect residents without unduly hampering businesses. As Los Angeles County contemplates requiring attendees of large events to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test, at least one organizer has preemptively canceled a mega-event, citing a lack of resources to comply with the new rules.
In other coronavirus news, California public health leaders said Friday that a working group would soon meet to review a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel’s recommendation to reserve COVID booster shots for people 65 and older or at high risk of severe disease.
2. Families push for remote special education
The choices are stark for many California families whose children have disabilities: Send their kids to school and put them at greater risk of contracting COVID-19, or keep them home and forfeit key special education services such as speech therapy and occupational therapy. As soon as this week, the state could release new guidelines clarifying that special education students have the right to independent study — a revised form of distance learning that families can opt into if they don’t feel comfortable sending their kids back to campus, CalMatters’ Joe Hong reports. But in the meantime, independent study remains ill-adapted for students with disabilities. Julie Fitzgibbons, who kept her 13-year-old triplets on the autism spectrum home for fear they wouldn’t keep their masks on, says that a month into the Duarte Unified school year, they have yet to receive any instruction from their teachers — a sharp contrast from their experience with distance learning.
- Fitzgibbons: “We’re worried we’re gonna lose our service providers and our time slots. These people have worked with our kids for 20 months now. Our kids did really well with distance learning.”
Another pandemic school policy that’s had unequal effects: COVID-19 testing. The state is requiring vaccinations or weekly testing for school employees, but has left student testing up to the individual districts. In the San Diego Unified School District, that’s resulted in schools with higher poverty levels testing far fewer students than wealthier schools, Voice of San Diego reports. Student vaccinations are also up to the districts, and San Diego Unified and Sacramento City Unified are joining the growing list of campuses considering (and in some cases, implementing) a vaccine mandate for kids 12 and older.
3. Likely on tap: fire danger, power shutoffs
Newsom’s first significant policy action post-recall was to sign one of the state’s biggest housing packages in years — though the most impactful bill may be a little-known technical one, not the controversial proposal to effectively eliminate single-family zoning, CalMatters’ Manuela Tobias reports. But with dry, gusty winds sweeping over the state, Newsom may soon have to turn his focus to fires. Much of Northern California will spend today and part of tomorrow under a red flag warning signaling critical fire conditions, and PG&E warned it may shut off power to thousands of customers in portions of 13 counties. (The beleaguered utility, whose two recent requests for more revenue could cause the average customer’s monthly bill to rise 4.7%, saw nearly 29,000 of its Bay Area customers lose power on Sunday from light rain mixing with dirt on power lines to form mud.)
Although the KNP Complex Fire reached the beloved Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park over the weekend, firefighters said they were confident about protecting the iconic sequoias, many of which were wrapped in fire-resistant aluminum material. Last year’s Castle Fire killed as many as 10,600 trees in the park — a staggering 14% of the world’s population of giant sequoias. Park officials are now evaluating whether to replant some of the groves.
- Christy Brigham, chief of resources management and science at Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks: “We’ve never had to do that in 100 years of history. It’s unprecedented.”
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TOMORROW, 12-1:30 pm: Join CalMatters and the Milken Institute for a discussion on California’s broadband infrastructure. Register here.
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion infrastructure package could benefit high-income Californians. (Note: As Dan is on vacation, his column will pause until Oct. 4.)
Closing California’s wealth gap: Government programs should create jobs and opportunities for those left behind, but we also need to do our part as individuals, argues Joe Lumarda, a private wealth advisor and board trustee of the California Wellness Foundation.
The promise of water markets: Water banking and trading are essential tools for managing California’s groundwater, and we urgently need to make them work better, write Andrew Ayres and Ellen Hanak of the Public Policy Institute of California’s Water Policy Center.
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Other things worth your time
In Solano County, the Bay Area’s COVID outlier, masks are anything but universal. // San Francisco Chronicle
The Central Valley gives California a recall rarity: a squeaker of a race. // Los Angeles Times
San Diego proposing 10,000 new housing units on 300 acres of public land. // San Diego Union-Tribune
Los Angeles juvenile halls are ‘unsuitable’ to confine youth, state board finds. // Los Angeles Times
California imposes more safeguards on youth organizations. // Associated Press
California police officers indicted in beating of Black teen. // Los Angeles Times
California court overturns murder convictions, cites racism. // Associated Press
‘Judicial emergency’: San Diego federal court feeling pinch with 7 of 13 seats vacant. // San Diego Union-Tribune
FBI tactics criticized in Beverly Hills safe deposit box raid. // Los Angeles Times
Deaths from fentanyl-laced drugs skyrocket in Sacramento. // Sacramento Bee
A wave of armed robberies along Melrose Avenue highlights bigger problem. // Los Angeles Times
Sacramento reduces water consumption but falls short of Newsom’s goal for California. // Sacramento Bee
Fresno votes to fight share of Friant-Kern Canal repairs, possibly jeopardize water supply. // San Joaquin Valley Sun
Climate change lets mosquitoes flourish — and feast — in Los Angeles. // Washington Post
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