By Kenny Choi

WALNUT CREEK (CBS SF) — With stores trying to salvage part of the shopping season with year-end sales, the coronavirus pandemic continues to expose the disparities between those who can spend – and give a boost to the economy – and those who simply can’t.

It’s a holiday season unlike any other with looming worries about the economy in 2021. Retailers at Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek Wednesday were trying to salvage part of the shopping season with year-end sales.

“I was hoping the stimulus would happen sooner. That would have helped retail. People are holding back a little bit,” said Christine Sampo of Brighton Collectibles.

Behind the transactions, lines of shoppers, and cars waiting for parking, California’s economy is anything but humming.

“Everything is back to normal for me but a lot of people have lost their jobs or they’re out,” said Lafayette resident Dan Pizza, who was shopping with his daughter.

California’s new unemployment claims are higher than other states and the nation on a per capita basis, according to the U.S. Labor Department. The state makes up 11% of the country’s labor force, but accounts for 18% of new claims in the latest numbers released Thursday.

“You have the other California, which during the pandemic has been small business people, independent contractors, and hourly workers.  They have been hit hard and continue being hit hard,” said former California Employment Development Director Michael Bernick.

“I’m $4,000 or so back on my rent,” said Arceo Gonzalo, who lost his job installing wood floors in March. “My landlord is super nice. He’s been helping me a lot. But imagine, what am I gonna do? Where am I gonna take my daughter who has special needs in a wheelchair? Where am I going to go?”

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Not only that, he says after first noticing fraudulent charges on his unemployment benefit card three months ago, his account has been frozen, and has made more than 70 calls to Bank of America and EDD asking for an explanation.

“They tell you different things because they don’t know, they don’t know what happened,” said Gonzalo.

“We’ll come to some balance and people will find joy and happiness but right now it’s really sad times,” said JJ Tripod, who was making some returns at stores.