With stay-at-home restrictions being lifted in April of 2020, the unemployment rate has slowly begun to improve, but newly reinstituted regulations may jeopardize the economy’s process as COVID-19 cases surge.

Disastrous towards 2020 U.S. employment, stay-at-home orders as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic prompted mass layoffs, resulting in the City of Santa Clarita’s 144% increase in unemployment since January. 

The unemployment rate in Santa Clarita has climbed to 10.7% from 20.3% in April during the peak of the pandemic, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The economic improvement slowly began to improve during May in correlation to regulations being lifted, but the current unemployment rate of 10.7% remains notably higher than the 3.9% unemployment rate in October 2019. 

Graph Courtesy of Roberto Ramos

This data is somewhat skewed as the BLS revealed that some workers on temporary layoffs were misclassified as “absent from work because of other reasons” instead of “unemployed.” Because of this misrepresentation, the unemployment rate may be around 4% higher than accounted for. 

Future economic growth is expected to be impacted once again due to reports of record high coronavirus cases within Los Angeles County.

As a result, the state announced another regional stay-at-home order that will proceed until ICU unit capacity decreases below 15%, posing concern of additional layoffs. 

With uncertainty on the horizon regarding both the unemployment epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic, people fear that new restrictions may result in the loss of their jobs. 

“We shouldn’t have to destroy the economy and shut down everything. Our livelihoods are being played with and panic is being created among people,” said Laura Perez as she removed the welcome sign at Reflex Spa in Santa Clarita. “We are picking and choosing the businesses to be destroyed and it does not seem to matter to anyone unless it affects them directly.” 

Not only is unemployment a major concern across L.A. County, but also small businesses have been finding loopholes to avoid putting their workers on unemployment.

Cutting the hours of part-time workers is a major loophole in which employers schedule their workers for less hours throughout the week to maintain their production costs, leaving workers with little pay and the inability to apply for unemployment benefits. 

“Last week, I was scheduled for four hours as opposed to my typical 25 hour work week,” said Grace Montez, a worker at a local sandwich shop who asked the name of the shop be withheld. “I’m frustrated with the reality of my work situation, but I consider myself lucky that I can still pick up hours. Our store receives about 10 calls a day to ask if we are hiring and we have to turn everyone away.”

As increased coronavirus cases continue to break records since the most recent peak in July, workers like Perez and Montez may be at further risk of unemployment as a result of the pandemic. 

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