SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – The latest California new unemployment claim numbers are the first real sign the state’s economy is recovering. What is unknown is how many small businesses will bounce back from more than a year of lockdowns.

There are more signs of the local economy reopening and getting back to pre-pandemic levels.

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“All I know is there seems to be a decent amount of interest in these retail spaces. Yes, it’s starting to pick up,” said Erston Pearcy of Cournaleco & Co. real estate.

The lease rate here has dropped since last year.

The pandemic closed Sunset Pet Supply on Noriega Street in San Francisco last year. The space is now for lease, opening the door for a new business opportunity.

Across the street, Devil’s Teeth Baking Company is at full staff.

“Recently I think people are feeling a little cabin fever and looking for other places and other opportunities so we’re having to fill more spots than we have all year,” bakery owner Hilary Passman told KPIX 5.

New unemployment claim numbers in California are down to 69,895, also the lowest level since March 14, 2020, and a sharp drop of 75,645 from the previous week.

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Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims also are down, at 21,861, the lowest level of the past year.

“It’s due to three factors. One, the vaccinations have finally picked up speed. Two, the economic lockdowns finally are being lifted. And three, schools finally, finally, finally are reopening,” said Michael Bernick, former director of the California Employment Development Department.

At a news conference Thursday touting the expansion of vaccine eligibility to all Californians 16 and up, Gov. Gavin Newsom said, “Wait till the March numbers come out.”

“The state is ready to come back, come roaring back,” the governor went on to say.

That comeback is thanks to local support, like Michael Finkelstein, who kept stopping by his neighbor’s business even when his dog walking services, Viking Dog & Hiking, took a major hit with people working from home.

“Now I can see the avalanche is about to come over with a lot of people needing help with their dogs,” said Finkelstein.

Like Michael’s rescue dog, and small business, what was once lost, can be found again.

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“I’m starting to get my hands full once again, it’s really great actually, ’21 is looking up. 2020 was really scary,” said Finkelstein.