Competition for jobs heats up amid record unemployment claims

Posted at 4:40 PM, Mar 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-27 12:41:10-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — A record number of Americans filed for unemployment for the first time last week, leading to increased competition for the jobs that are available.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that nearly 2.9 million workers are now seeking weekly payments from the government amid coronavirus-related closures.

In San Diego County, the Workforce Partnership reports that it has received notice from 92 companies totaling roughly 12,000 workers — those notices, however, are voluntary, so the actual number could be much higher.

RELATED: Will you qualify for a $1,200 COVID-19 stimulus check?

In all, the workers are largely from retailers, restaurants, and hotels, which comprise about 350,000 workers in the region. Those workers could receive up to $450 per week from the state of California, plus an additional $600 from the federal government's stimulus package.

The bottom line: there are more people out of work now than jobs available.

"I'm in an industry that is vulnerable to situations like this in the future, so what do I have to do about it to guarantee that this doesn't happen to me and my family again in the future? That's my question," said Sean O'Hara, who recently lost his job as general manager of the now-closed Splash Cafe at the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla, which is operated by the French Gourmet. "All the restaurants are closed that I can see. A couple of bakeries are staying open."

RELATED: San Diego grocery stores hiring to address demand amid virus

The Workforce Partnership says there are jobs available in San Diego, beyond grocery stores and delivery services.

Rachel Merfalen, the agency's director of business development, said drug stores, hardware stores, and home health services are also hiring and many of the jobs are flexible and entry level.

"A lot of the influx in hiring that's happening right now is in response to this current situation, and so a lot of these positions, while some may continue to be permanent, I think a lot of them are temporary by nature," Merfalen said.

RELATED: 3.3 million seek US jobless aid, nearly 5 times earlier high

Merfalen said a great way applicants can separate themselves from the rest of the applicants is to speak to one of the partnership's jobs coaches, and have them help make the connection to employers.

Applicants can sign up for those free services, and apply for jobs, at