Summary: Unemployment

Spotlight on Key Indicators: Unemployment

Learn More About Unemployment

Family Income and Poverty
Food Security
Housing Affordability
Disconnected Youth
Why This Topic Is Important
In 2014, nearly one-third (32.8%) of California children lived in families where no parent had full-time employment (1). Unemployment and underemployment reduce family income and thus can cause financial instability. Financial stress has direct impacts on parents and, in addition to limiting parents’s ability to meet their family’s material needs, can affect their ability to meet their children’s emotional needs. Consequently, family financial hardship can contribute to behavioral and social problems in children, and compound poor physical health (2). Children who experience economic hardship when they are young, or who experience extreme and prolonged hardship, are at greatest risk for poor developmental outcomes (2). Children with unemployed parents also are at higher risk of experiencing family relocation and repeating a grade in school than children whose parents are stably employed (2, 3). In addition, long-term parental unemployment is associated with decreased earnings for children when they enter the work force (3).
For more information on unemployment, see’s Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  As cited on, Children without secure parental employment, by city, school district and county (65,000 residents or more). (2016). Population Reference Bureau, analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey microdata files.

2.  Isaacs, J. (2013). Unemployment from a child's perspective. Urban Institute & First Focus. Retrieved from:

3.  Child Trends Databank. (2015). Secure parental employment. Retrieved from:
How Children Are Faring
In 2015, nearly 1.2 million Californians (6.2% of the state workforce) were unemployed, down from a 16-year high of 2.3 million (12.4% of the labor force) in 2010. The trend in California's unemployment mirrors that of the U.S., but California's unemployment figures have been consistently higher since 2000. Unemployment varies across California counties, ranging from 3.4% to 24% in 2015. City-level rates also show variation.

In 2014, 32.8% of California children lived in households without secure parental employment, where no parent worked at least 35 hours per week, at least 50 weeks in the 12 months prior to the survey. California figures for children without secure parent employment have exceeded national figures since at least 2008.
Policy Implications
California faces significant workforce challenges. The state unemployment insurance system is insolvent, the state is not producing enough college graduates to meet the future needs of its economy, federal funding for income support designed to help families weather financial hardship has declined, and many segments of the economy have lost substantial numbers of jobs (1, 2).

According to research and subject experts, policy options that could mitigate unemployment include:
  • Addressing insolvency in the unemployment insurance system to maintain stability and protect workers and employers (1)
  • Retooling state K-12 and higher education systems to improve college eligibility, participation, and graduation rates, particularly among Hispanic/Latino, African American/black, and American Indian/Alaska Native students (3)
  • Ensuring adequate federal and state funding to support families in hard times, such as cash assistance, subsidized jobs, and other assistance through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and CalWORKs (2, 4)
  • Supporting effective job training, workforce development, and re-employment support programs that align with the job market (5)
For more policy ideas and research on this topic see’s Research & Links section or visit the Urban Institute, California Budget & Policy Center, or the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Also see Policy Implications on under Family Income and Poverty, Housing Affordability, and Homelessness.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Legislative Analyst’s Office. (2015). Major issues facing the unemployment insurance program. Retrieved from:

2.  California Budget & Policy Center. (2013). A fair chance: Why California should invest in economic opportunity for women and their families. Retrieved from:

3.  Acosta, R. A., & Martin, E. J. (2013). California urban crisis and fiscal decline: Trends in high school dropout rates and economic implications. Urbana: Urban Affairs and Public Policy, 14. Retrieved from:

4.  Schott, L., & Pavetti, L. (2013). Changes in TANF work requirements could make them more effective in promoting employment. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Retrieved from:

5.  Acs, G. (2013). Responding to long-term unemployment. Urban Institute. Retrieved from:
Websites with Related Information
Key Reports and Research
County/Regional Reports
More Data Sources For Unemployment