The backlog of unpaid unemployment claims is rising again, marking a brutal new milestone for California workers forced to navigate sky-high layoffs and a fresh round of government-ordered business shutdowns to combat the coronavirus.

A growing number of California workers are being shoved into a bureaucratic limbo of backlogged jobless claims because the disgraced state Employment Development Department has once again faltered in its quest to whittle away the logjam of unpaid unemployment benefits, according to official EDD documents.

An estimated 725,100 California workers are now awaiting payments of backlogged unemployment claims, the EDD reported for the week that ended on Dec. 2.

For a while, all appeared to be going well for the EDD. For six consecutive weeks, the besieged state labor agency had reported the backlog of unpaid claims had diminished.

That’s all changed, and for the worse.

For three straight weeks, the backlog of unpaid claims has increased, according to the EDD.

The backlog of 725,100 unpaid claims is the highest level that number has been in about a month. During the week that ended on Nov. 11, the claims backlog number was 542,100, the EDD reported.

That means the current backlog is higher by 183,000 than the Nov. 11 number, a huge jump of 34% in just a few weeks, this news organization’s analysis of the unemployment jogjam shows.

The one-week rise in the current backlog is also a brutal increase, 17%.

The most recently reported backlog is also higher — a whopping number of 103,400 claims — than the logjam of 621,700 that was reported for the week ending on Nov. 25.

The most recent backlog of 725,100 consists of two categories:

— 363,000 claims by workers who had filed a first-time unemployment claim but have been waiting more than 21 days to receive their first payment or be told they don’t qualify for any benefits. These are officially known as initial claims.

— 362,100 claims by workers who received at least one payment but have been waiting more than 21 days to receive an additional payment or notification from the EDD that they don’t qualify for further payments. These are known as continuing claims.

The most recently reported backlog for initial unemployment claims is the highest that metric has been since Oct. 14, when the logjam totaled 402,800.

The continuing claims backlog is at its highest level since Nov. 4, when the number 594,300.



By Kelley Wheeler

Kelley Wheeler is a Metro reporter covering political issues and general assignments. A second-generation journalist, worked with all major news outlet, she holds a vast expeirience. Kelley is a graduate of USC with degrees in journalism and English literature. She is a recipient of Yale’s Poynter Fellowship in Journalism.

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