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- Definition: Estimated number of persons in the labor force who are not working but are available to work and have looked for work in the previous four weeks (e.g., in 2020, 1,908,100 Californians were unemployed).Estimated percentage of persons in the labor force who are not working but are available to work and have looked for work in the previous four weeks (e.g., in 2020, the unemployment rate in California was 10.1%).
- Data Source: California Employment Development Department, Labor Market Information; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Labor Force Statistics Including the National Unemployment Rate (Sept. 2021).
- Footnote: Data are not seasonally adjusted. The labor force includes all persons ages 16 and older who are employed or unemployed. For definitions and additional information, see the California Employment Development Department and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics glossaries. Data are displayed for sub-county geographies with at least 10,000 people based on 2020 population estimates. N/A means that data are not available. Some regions listed are Census Designated Places (CDPs), such as East Los Angeles; CDPs are communities within the unincorporated part of a county.
Learn More About Unemployment
- Measures of Unemployment on Kidsdata.org
On kidsdata.org, estimates of children under age 18 living in families without secure parental employment (in which no resident parent worked 35 hours or more per week for at least 50 weeks in the previous 12 months) are available for the U.S., California, and counties and county groups as single-year estimates, and for regions of 10,000+ residents and legislative districts as five-year estimates.
Kidsdata.org also provides estimates of unemployed persons in the labor force ages 16 and older. Unemployment numbers and rates reflect persons who are not employed, are available to work, and have looked for work in the previous four weeks.**Those who are not employed and not looking for work may be classified as unemployed or not in the labor force, depending on their circumstances; for definitions and additional information, see the California Employment Development Department and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics glossaries.
- Family Income and Poverty
- Children in Poverty, by Race/Ethnicity
- Children in Deep Poverty
- Income Level for Children Relative to Poverty
- Income Level for Children Relative to Poverty, by Family Type
- Children Living in Low-Income Working Families
- Mothers with a Recent Birth Living in Families in Poverty
- Mothers with a Recent Birth Living in Low-Income Families
- Children in Poverty - Supplemental Poverty Measure (California & U.S. Only)
- Poverty Thresholds - California Poverty Measure, by Family Composition and Housing Tenure
- Children in Poverty - California Poverty Measure
- Children in Deep Poverty - California Poverty Measure
- Poverty-Reducing Effects of the Social Safety Net - California Poverty Measure, by Program Type and Poverty Level (California Only)
- Self-Sufficiency Standard, by Family Composition
- Families Living Below Self-Sufficiency Standard
- Children Participating in CalWORKs
- Student Demographics
- Food Security
- Disconnected Youth
- Childhood Adversity and Resilience
- Children with Adverse Experiences (Parent Reported), by Number (CA & U.S. Only)
- Children with Adverse Experiences (Parent Reported), by Type (CA & U.S. Only)
- Children with Two or More Adverse Experiences (Parent Reported), by Race/Ethnicity (CA & U.S. Only)
- Prevalence of Childhood Hardships (Maternal Retrospective)
- Housing Affordability and Resources
- Impacts of Special Health Care Needs on Children and Families
- Why This Topic Is Important
Unemployment and underemployment can lead to financial and family instability. In addition to limiting parents' ability to meet their families' basic needs, financial stress can affect their ability to provide for their children emotionally. Research has linked parental unemployment to short- and long-term mental health problems in children, as well as negative academic and employment outcomes later in life (1, 2, 3). Unemployment also can cause families to fall below the poverty level. Children who experience economic hardship when they are young, particularly hardship that is extreme or prolonged, are at increased risk for adverse health and developmental outcomes (4). Stable parental employment (with adequate pay and benefits) can counteract this hardship and help ensure that children's basic needs are met and that they have safe, stable family environments in which to thrive (5).
Recent unemployment crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the Great Recession, hit certain families particularly hard, including parents of color, women, immigrants, less-educated parents, and lower-income families (5, 6). Leaders can address the systemic issues behind these inequities, as well as support programs and policies to meet the needs of these vulnerable families.For more information on unemployment, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.
Sources for this narrative:
1. Lam, J., & Ambrey, C. L. (2019). The scarring effects of father's unemployment? Job-security satisfaction and mental health at midlife. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, 74(1), 105-112. Retrieved from: https://academic.oup.com/psychsocgerontology/article/74/1/105/4259759
2. Ananat, E. O., & Gassman-Pines, A. (2020). Snapshot of the COVID crisis impact on working families. EconoFact. Retrieved from: https://econofact.org/snapshot-of-the-covid-crisis-impact-on-working-families
3. Nikolova, M., & Nikolaev, B. (2018). How having unemployed parents affects children's future well-being. Brookings Institution. Retrieved from: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2018/07/13/how-having-unemployed-parents-affects-childrens-future-well-being
4. American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Community Pediatrics. (2021). Poverty and child health in the United States. Pediatrics, 137(4), e20160339. Retrieved from: https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article/137/4/e20160339/81482/Poverty-and-Child-Health-in-the-United-States
5. Adams, G. (2020). Stabilizing supports for children and families during the pandemic. Urban Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/stabilizing-supports-children-and-families-during-pandemic
6. Anderson, A. (2020). Women and people of color take biggest hits in California's job losses. California Budget and Policy Center. Retrieved from: https://calbudgetcenter.org/resources/women-poc-take-hits-in-californias-job-loss
- How Children Are Faring
In 2018, an estimated 28% of California children living in families had no parent with full-time, year-round employment in the previous 12 months, compared with 26% of children nationwide. At the local level, the percentage of children without secure parental employment ranged from less than 10% to more than 50% across cities, school districts, and counties with at least 10,000 residents in 2014-2018.
California and U.S. unemployment rates, after reaching twenty-year lows in 2019 (4.2% and 3.7%, respectively), more than doubled in 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. An estimated 1.9 million California workers (10.1%) were unemployed in 2020, with rates across counties ranging from 7% to more than 20%.
- Policy Implications
Even before recent economic crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the Great Recession, many California workers struggled to find adequate employment to meet their families' basic needs (1, 2). These crises exacerbated existing economic problems and disparities, with job losses disproportionately affecting lower-income families, women, people of color, immigrants, and less-educated workers (1, 3). Similarly, during times of prosperity, not all families benefit from a strong economy (2, 3). Policymakers can address labor market discrimination and inequities, help build a skilled workforce for in-demand jobs, and remove barriers to work and education (2, 4, 6). These steps, along with promoting effective support services, have the potential to minimize unemployment and underemployment, and maximize opportunities for all Californians (2, 4).
Policy and program options that could improve workforce participation, reduce inequities, and mitigate the effects of unemployment include:
For more information on this topic, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section or visit Urban Institute, California Budget and Policy Center, and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Also see Policy Implications on kidsdata.org for Family Income and Poverty and other topics related to Family Economics.
- Continuing to retool California's K-12 and higher education systems, aligning education plans with workforce needs and improving college preparation, attendance, and graduation rates, particularly among underrepresented groups such as low-income, African American, and Latino students (4)
- Promoting and strengthening early work opportunities for low-income youth and young people of color, e.g., through summer youth employment programs (5)
- Supporting effective career education, workforce development, and reemployment programs that align with the changing job market; as part of this, promoting comprehensive plans to address long-term unemployment, which may include subsidized employment and improved job-specific training and hiring systems (2, 4, 6, 7)
- Pursuing targeted strategies to address systemic barriers to stable employment with adequate compensation for people of color, women, and others who are overrepresented among low-wage workers; as part of this, working to eliminate bias and discrimination in hiring practices and ensuring strong enforcement of anti-discrimination laws (6)
- Working across sectors to address other barriers to employment, such as affordable housing near employers, high-quality child care, and public transportation (2, 7)
- Ensuring that federal and state safety net policies and investments—such as cash and food assistance, health and unemployment insurance, housing and employment supports, and tax credits—adequately support all families in need, including full-time working parents who struggle to make ends meet (2, 8)
Sources for this narrative:
1. Adams, G. (2020). Stabilizing supports for children and families during the pandemic. Urban Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/stabilizing-supports-children-and-families-during-pandemic
2. Hanak, E., et al. (2021). California's future. Public Policy Institute of California. Retrieved from: https://www.ppic.org/publication/californias-future
3. Anderson, A. (2020). Women and people of color take biggest hits in California's job losses. California Budget and Policy Center. Retrieved from: https://calbudgetcenter.org/resources/women-poc-take-hits-in-californias-job-loss
4. Murphy, P., et al. (2019). Higher education in California. Public Policy Institute of California. Retrieved from: https://www.ppic.org/publication/higher-education-in-california
5. Spievack, N., & Sick, N. (2019). The youth workforce: A detailed picture. Urban Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.urban.org/research/publication/youth-workforce-detailed-picture
6. Ross, M., & Bateman, N. (2019). Meet the low-wage workforce. Brookings Institution. Retrieved from: https://www.brookings.edu/research/meet-the-low-wage-workforce
7. Arabella Advisors. (n.d.). Opportunities to address long-term unemployment. Retrieved from: https://www.arabellaadvisors.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Opportunities-to-Address-Long-term-Unemployment-Arabella-Advisors.pdf
8. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. (2021). Policy basics: Unemployment insurance. Retrieved from: https://www.cbpp.org/research/economy/unemployment-insurance
- Research & Links
- Websites with Related Information
- Brookings: Labor Policy and Unemployment
- California Budget and Policy Center
- California Workforce Development Board
- Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP): Income and Work Supports
- Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
- Insight Center for Community Economic Development
- Pew Charitable Trusts: Finance and Economy
- Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity
- Urban Institute: Economic Well-Being
- Key Reports and Research
- A Plan to Reform the Unemployment Insurance System in the United States. (2021). Brookings. Dube, A.
- A Regional Look at California’s Latest Employment Trends. (2023). Public Policy Institute of California. Bohn, S., et al.
- Addressing Economic Inequity with a Whole-of-Government Approach: Recommendations for Aligning Federal Subsidized Employment Investments. (2023). Center for Law and Social Policy. Young, M., & Andrews, E.
- California's Future. (2021). Public Policy Institute of California. Hanak, E., et al.
- Chart Book: Tracking the Recovery from the Pandemic Recession. (2023). Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
- Future of Work in California: A New Social Compact for Work and Workers. (2021). Institute for the Future for the California Future of Work Commission.
- In Good Times and Bad, California’s Black and Latinx Workers Bear the Burden of Unemployment. (2022). California Budget and Policy Center. Kimberlin, S., & Anderson, A.
- Job Displacement in the United States by Race, Education, and Parental Income. (2022). Brookings. Shiro, A. G., & Butcher, K.
- Making Sense of California’s Economy. (2022). Public Policy Institute of California. Bohn, S., et al.
- Meet the Low-Wage Workforce. (2019). Brookings Institution. Ross, M., & Bateman, N.
- Opportunities to Address Long-Term Unemployment. Arabella Advisors.
- Policy Basics: Unemployment Insurance. (2021). Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
- Stabilizing Children’s Lives: Employers. (2020). Urban Institute. Adams, G., & Kuhns, C.
- Taking Action: Positioning Low-Income Workers to Succeed in a Changing Economy. (2019). Hatcher Group.
- The Federal Job Guarantee: A Policy to Achieve Permanent Full Employment. (2018). Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Paul, M., et al.
- The Great Recession’s Lessons on State and Local Aid’s Importance in Combating an Economic Downturn and Supporting Children. (2020). Urban Institute. Lou, C.
- The Scarring Effects of Father’s Unemployment? Job-Security Satisfaction and Mental Health at Midlife. (2019). The Journals of Gerontology: Series B. Lam, J., & Ambrey, C. L.
- The Youth Workforce: A Detailed Picture. (2019). Urban Institute. Spievack, N., & Sick, N.
- Youth Apprenticeship in Action: Principles in Practice. (2021). Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship. Messing-Mathie, A.
- County/Regional Reports
- Community Health Improvement Plan for Los Angeles County. Los Angeles County Dept. of Public Health.
- Important Facts About Kern’s Children. Kern County Network for Children.
- Live Well San Diego Report Card on Children, Families, and Community. The Children’s Initiative.
- Orange County Community Indicators Report. Orange County Business Council, et al.
- More Data Sources For Unemployment
- 2022 KIDS COUNT Data Book: State Trends in Child Well-Being. Annie E. Casey Foundation.
- California Family Needs Calculator. Insight Center for Community Economic Development.
- California Health Interview Survey. UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
- California Strong Start Index. First 5 Association of California & Children’s Data Network.
- Childstats.gov. Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics.
- The Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey. Urban Institute.
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