Unemployment claims: 860,000 more Americans claimed unemployment benefits last week


It was another week-over-week drop for jobless claims as the recovery in employment continued, but improvements have been slow and the recovery in employment falters. Weekly claims have improved since mid-August, when they briefly increased slightly.

Despite the improvement, claims last week were still around four times higher than they were before the pandemic.

Continuing unemployment claims, counting workers who have applied for benefits for at least two consecutive weeks, stood at 12.6 million, down significantly from the number in last week’s report.

Worse yet, these figures do not include claims made under various other government unemployment assistance programs, such as the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program, which provides benefits to those who are not. generally not eligible, such as the self-employed.PUA claims stood at 658,737 last week, down from the previous week. It was their first drop week after week since the start of August.

Adding together PUA claims and not seasonally adjusted regular claims, claims for the first time stood at 1.4 million in the week ending September 12 – down from the previous week.

Confusion over the accuracy of the data

But the number of people who actually receive unemployment benefits is not clear.

The flood of applicants spurred by the coronavirus closings and the creation of the Temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program has left federal and state agencies struggling to provide reliable data. It took weeks for many jobless Americans to get their applications accepted, resulting in large backlogs that could skew the numbers.

In addition, criminals quickly sought to take advantage of the chaos and filed fraudulent claims, which made it even more difficult to determine the true number of people in the unemployment system.

Some experts say there are fewer people receiving benefits than the number shown in the report. They point to the PUA program as one of the sources of the problem.

Part of the problem is that it took a long time to get the new system in place and many of those eligible may not have initially realized that they could apply. This left some people claiming several weeks of benefits at a time, inflating the data on ongoing claims.

“You don’t count the real people, you count the number of claims,” said Till von Wachter, director of the California Policy Lab, which works with the National Unemployment Agency to analyze unemployment data for the pandemic. “And those aren’t necessarily the demands for that particular week. ”

For example, the Policy Lab found that while there were about 3.5 million Californians receiving benefits as of mid-August, the number of certified payments exceeded 6 million.

In the Golden State, those who participate in the state’s regular unemployment program have been certified for about two weeks, on average, for most of this year, according to a recent report released by the research organization. (California residents submit their certifications every two weeks, not weekly like in many other states.)

But those in the pandemic program had been certified for about four weeks since June, and that number had climbed to more than eight weeks by the end of August.

The state recently revised its process for certifying pandemic program applicants and stepped up efforts to combat fraud.

Correction: An earlier version of the story incorrectly reported the number of jobless claims last week. It was 860,000.


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