Poll: Majority of Californians worse off since COVID emergency began

Californians have a bleak outlook for the economy after Gov. Gavin Newsom’s three-year emergency order ended Tuesday.

California’s state of emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic is finally over, ending on Tuesday after nearly three years in place. 

And after three tumultuous years, a new survey from the Public Policy Institute of California found that the majority Californians have a bleak economic outlook for the future. 


The backstory: California Gov. Gavin Newsom first issued the emergency order in response to the pandemic on March 4, 2020, giving him the power to issue sweeping mandates without needing the approval of state lawmakers. 

  • Newsom announced last October that he would end the emergency on Feb. 28. 

The big picture: According to the PPIC survey, California has seen dramatic swings in economic conditions throughout the three-year emergency, starting with severe job loss that eventually rebounded, leading to the economic volatility of the past year as inflation remains high. 

Driving the news: At the start of the pandemic the PPIC survey found that around 80 percent of Californians had poor economic expectations. That number was cut in half in 2021, but now has risen up to 66 percent. 

  • California’s poor economic outlook can be seen in the state’s jobs report. According to the PPIC, the state lost 2.8 million jobs in the first two months of the pandemic, but by October 2022 California had regained 2.8 million jobs. 
  • The rebound in the job market, however, was not a one-for-one ratio for jobs lost to jobs gained. 
  • Food service, arts and entertainment are still well below their pre-pandemic jobs levels, and government, retail and manufacturing jobs have still not returned to their pre-pandemic numbers. Transportation and warehousing jobs are up 16 percent, on the other hand. 
  • The survey reported that 53 percent of Californians report themselves to be worse off financially than they were at the onset of the pandemic, compared to just nine percent who report as better off.
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