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Unemployment (see data for this topic)

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Why This Topic Is Important
Unemployment and underemployment reduce family income and can lead to financial instability. In addition to limiting parents' ability to meet their families' material needs, financial stress can affect their ability to provide for their children emotionally. Consequently, family financial hardship can contribute to behavioral and social problems in children, and compound poor physical health (1). Children who experience economic hardship when they are young, or who experience extreme and prolonged hardship, are at greatest risk for poor developmental outcomes (1). Children with unemployed parents also are at higher risk of experiencing family relocation and repeating a grade in school compared with children whose parents are stably employed (1, 2). In addition, long-term parental unemployment is associated with decreased earnings for children when they enter the work force (2).
For more information on unemployment, see’s Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Isaacs, J. (2013). Unemployment from a child's perspective. Urban Institute & First Focus. Retrieved from:

2.  Child Trends Databank. (2015). Secure parental employment. Retrieved from:
Policy Implications
Recent labor market trends generally have benefited California's workforce, but not all families have prospered from the state's strong economy. Despite declining unemployment and sustained job growth in most sectors, disparities persist across regions and demographic groups (1). Addressing barriers to work, skills training, and support services can maximize opportunity for all Californians (1, 2).

Policy options that could improve workforce participation and connection include:
  • Retooling state K-12 and higher education systems to improve college eligibility, participation, and graduation rates, particularly among African American/black, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Hispanic/Latino students (1, 3, 4)
  • Ensuring adequate federal and state funding to support families in need, such as cash assistance, subsidized jobs, and other assistance through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and CalWORKs (5, 6)
  • Expanding access to affordable child care and transportation among working parents and transit-dependent workers (1, 3, 5)
  • Supporting effective job training, workforce development, and re-employment support programs that align with the job market (1, 7)
For more policy ideas and research on this topic, see’s Research & Links section or visit Urban Institute, California Budget and Policy Center, or Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Also see Policy Implications on under Family Income and Poverty, Housing Affordability, and Homelessness.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Bohn, S. (2019). California's future: Economy. Public Policy Institute of California. Retrieved from:

2.  California Workforce Development Board. (n.d.). Skills attainment for upward mobility; aligned services for shared prosperity. Retrieved from:

3.  Reidenbach, L. (2015). How California’s workforce is changing and why state policy has to change with it. California Budget and Policy Center. Retrieved from:

4.  Acosta, R. A., & Martin, E. J. (2013). California urban crisis and fiscal decline: Trends in high school dropout rates and economic implications. Urbana: Urban Affairs and Public Policy, 14. Retrieved from:

5.  California Budget and Policy Center. (2013). A fair chance: Why California should invest in economic opportunity for women and their families. Retrieved from:

6.  Schott, L., & Pavetti, L. (2013). Changes in TANF work requirements could make them more effective in promoting employment. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Retrieved from:

7.  Acs, G. (2013). Responding to long-term unemployment. Urban Institute. Retrieved from:
How Children Are Faring
In 2016, an estimated 31% of California children lived in families in which no parent had full-time, year-round employment in the previous 12 months, compared with 28% of children nationwide. Among counties with data in 2012-2016, the percentage of children without secure parental employment ranged from 22% (San Mateo) to 48% (Siskiyou).

California's unemployment rate in 2017 was an estimated 4.8%, lower than at any point in the previous 18 years, and down from an estimated 12.4% in 2010. Since 2000, unemployment trends statewide have followed but consistently exceeded those of the nation.