By Len Ramirez

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — New figures released by the federal government show the national unemployment rate is at 14.7 percent, the worst unemployment rate since the Great Depression. Meanwhile, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state’s unemployment rate could be even worse.

The governor estimated California’s jobless rate to be “north of 20 percent.”

“This is the first time in my life that I have experienced applying for benefits,” said Sedah, who preferred using one name and works for a private educational company in San Jose.

Sedah’s company scaled her back to fewer than eight hours a week. She’s now on unemployment and rode her bike to get a free lunch being handed out at James Lick High School.

“I was expecting to work full time and this is normally our busiest season, and to have nothing has been quite shocking,’ said Sedah. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.”


“We’ve had no numbers like today, not only not in most of our lifetimes, but not since the Great Depression,” said Michael Bernick, employment attorney and former director of the state Employment Development Department.

“We’ve had over 3.8 million unemployment claims, just in the past six weeks. But that didn’t include gig economy workers,” Bernick said.

Someone else who’s likely undercounted is Elio Villanueva, who goes from job to job as a painting contractor.

“If you don’t have a job, you don’t have the money. If you don’t have money, who’s going to pay the rent?” he asked.

Villanueva said he is struggling to support his two kids and often visits free lunch programs and food banks.

“I used to work Monday through Friday, but now … It’s pretty difficult because we don’t have too much work,” Villanueva said.

Bernick says the economy is unlikely to quickly bounce back, and high unemployment is likely to be with us for a long time.

“In terms of the retail and curbside pickup, what I hear is that it will bring some people back but not a large number,” said Bernick. “So this initial easing is not likely to have any significant job impact.”

California is expected to release its next unemployment figures in about two weeks.