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Sacramento's heading toward 'unprecedented levels of unemployment.' But there's still hope.

A new report says Northern California is heading toward record setting unemployment in May. But, despite startling figures, there's still hope of a turnaround.

CALIFORNIA, USA — A virus that brought world economies to its knees will put California on a crash course for millions of jobs lost, a new report says.

The Center for Business and Policy Research, with the University of Pacific, is projecting record unemployment in May as California grapples with the coronavirus. Their figures translate to 3.86 million jobs lost and another 2.2 million jobs impacted by a significant reduction in hours.

"I think we all realize how severe the impacts are on those around us and ourselves," said Thomas Pogue, Assistant Director for the policy center. "It is quite startling."

Nationwide, 16.8 million are unemployed in just the past three weeks, making it the fastest pileup of job losses since record keeping began in 1948. In the past four weeks, California alone saw 2.3 million unemployment claims. 


Closer to home in areas like Sacramento, Stockton and Modesto, the rise in unemployment is striking. The three metropolitan statistical areas are projected to range from about 18% to 20% unemployment.

With Sacramento's affluence of entertainment venues and restaurants, Pogue said it would take the bigger hit from the restrictions, but, with rates that high, comparison doesn’t add much to the conversation.

"In both areas… they’re unprecedented levels of unemployment. They're both bad," Pogue said.

As severe as the impacts are, they aren’t without some level of silver lining. Pogue says, if California can "get on top of the virus in enough time," then there's hope that things can turn around in relatively quick fashion.

While there's a chance other issues could arise and bring unexpected problems, Pogue says there's nothing fundamentally wrong with the economy that would stop people from going back to work once everything is done. The impacts are ones from policies that had businesses close or work remotely.

"This is different than other recessions in that when those policies are relaxed, people should be able to go back to work," Pogue said.


However, when that happens, is anyone's guess. Stay at home orders were extended in Sacramento County to May, and there is no timetable for Governor Gavin Newsom's stay at home order. There’s no telling when things might be "normal" again.

"We want to know that too," said Pogue. "I'm working from home right now and would love to be back with my colleagues in the office."

Economically speaking, there still isn’t a lot of certainty. The report from the policy center doesn’t consider the effects of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security [CARES] Act. The report says it will have offsetting effects on the unemployment rate, but the overall effect isn’t clear yet.

California is also providing some relief, with some localities offering zero-interest loans and Gov. Newsom announcing an extra $600 for people on unemployment, courtesy of the CARES Act.

"It's hard at this point still, even though it seems like we're getting a little bit more clarity by the day, to really know how that recovery is going to take place. Because, it's going to depend a lot on how the restrictions are eased," Pogue said.

The unemployment numbers and the rate they are expected to increase are scary figures, so much so that both Pogue and the report itself acknowledge as much. Despite that, he says the report isn’t analyzing the cost versus the benefit to social distancing.


The report isn't meant to be an argument for ending what it calls necessary public health regulations. Instead, it actually finds that the benefits of stay-at-home and social distancing policies are worth the significant economic costs.

A brief summary of data points for Sacramento, Stockton, and Modesto areas are available below:

Sacramento-Roseville-Arden Arcade MSA 

  • 18.5% unemployment in May 2020
  • 203,900 unemployed in May 2020
    • Food preparation, serving related payroll job impact – 69,670
    • Sales and related payroll job impact – 36,270
    • Office administrative support payroll job impact – 23,900

Stockton-Lodi MSA

  • 20.1% unemployment in May 2020
  • 65,800 unemployed in May 2020
    • Food preparation, serving related payroll job impact - 15,910 
    • Sales and related payroll job impact - 9,620 
    • Healthcare support payroll job impact - 4,830 

Modesto MSA

  • 20.2% unemployment in May 2020
  • 49,300 unemployed in May 2020
    • Food preparation, serving related payroll job impact - 12,830 
    • Sales and related payroll job impact - 8,100 
    • Personal care and service payroll job impact - 3,810 


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