First-Time Jobless Claims Dip

GAO cites reporting flaws in weekly data

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer December 3, 2020
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forlorn woman

​States reported that 712,000 U.S. workers filed for new unemployment benefits during the week ending Nov. 28, as states have begun to reimpose restrictions on businesses amid a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. The total number of workers continuing to claim unemployment benefits fell last week, to 5.5 million. Another 4.5 million are enrolled in the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program for people whose benefits have run their course. Approximately 20 million people overall are in the process of collecting some kind of state or federal unemployment aid.

In a twist, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported this week that the Labor Department's weekly jobless claims data have been flawed, containing overestimates and underestimates at various times. Much of the inaccurate data stemmed from inconsistent reporting from states, many of which have been overwhelmed by processing backlogs of claims. A high prevalence of unemployment fraud has also skewed claims counts, the federal watchdog said.

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