Despite the warnings, the federal government largely left it to states to detect which applications are fake. But state workforce agencies, stymied by decades-old IT systems and flooded with applications, have been ill-equipped to find and prevent the fraud, which appears to be far more extensive than the usual attempts to bilk government programs. Now states are asking for help.

“We’re fighting this fight with ’70s era technology with some modern Band-Aids put on top of it,” Ryan Wright, Kansas’ acting secretary of Labor, said in an interview. “I would like to have seen a more aggressive response from the federal government.”

Last year, Wright said, his agency had no cases of impostors using fake employers to apply for benefits; in recent months, it has stopped 55,000 such claims. The fraud “now is reaching a scope that is difficult for states to weed through,” he said.

Labor Department Communications Director Megan Sweeney told POLITICO in a statement that the agency “is actively working with all states to combat fraud in UI programs,” especially in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which expanded jobless benefits to the self-employed. “The Department requires states to work with the Department’s Office of the Inspector General and to work collaboratively with other federal, state, and local law enforcement to investigate and prosecute fraud and to work closely with financial institutions to recover fraudulent payments,” Sweeney added.

State officials are seeing big surges in unemployment applications indicating that criminals are trying to game the system. And while they have been successful at blocking some of the theft attempts, the sheer scale is making it difficult to stop entirely.

Colorado officials estimated that three-quarters of unemployment applications they received over the summer were fraudulent, and they reported averting as much as $1 billion in attempted thefts. But criminals still may

For the millions of Americans who’ve lost work during the pandemic, finding another job can be a challenge. Of those who are collecting unemployment benefits, the average time out of work is now over five months. Almost one in five has been unemployed for six months or more.

For many, unemployment benefits have been critical to their ability to cover the rent and other bills. Congress helped in the spring by passing the CARES Act, which provided $600 weekly supplemental benefits through July, additional federal benefits for contract and self-employed workers, and extended benefits for those who exhaust their state’s regular benefits. An executive action in August also allowed some unemployed Americans to collect as much as $1,800 more, depending on their state.

But if Congress doesn’t pass more stimulus aid this fall, it’s possible benefits may run out for millions before they find a new job. If you’re among those who’ve lost a job or clients, and are collecting unemployment benefits, here’s what to know.

How long do regular unemployment benefits last?

Most states offer a maximum of 26 weeks of regular benefits, though a handful offer fewer. 

At the start of the year, 10 states had shorter limits. But after the onset of the pandemic, four of them—Georgia, Kansas, Michigan and Idaho—have temporarily raised their caps to 26 weeks. The remaining six that provide fewer than 26 weeks of regular unemployment benefits include: Alabama (14 weeks), Arkansas (16 weeks), Florida and North Carolina (12 weeks)—and Missouri and South Carolina, which each provide up to 20 weeks of unemployment insurance.

Two states actually provide more. Massachusetts generally provides up to 30 weeks except when

Initial Claims

There has very slight slight improvement in initial claims for six weeks.

For the weeks ending August 29, September 5, September 12, September 17, September 26, and October 3 there were 884,000, 893,000, 866,000, 873,000, 849,000, and 840,000 seasonally-adjusted claims respectively according to the Department of Labor.

Given margins of error on seasonally adjusted data there has been essentially no progress for six weeks.

Continued Claims

Continued State Unemployment Claims in 2020 October 7 Report

Continued claims lag initial claims by a week.

For the weeks ending August 29, September 5, September 17, and September 26, there were 13,554,000, 12,747,000, 12,747,000, 11,979,000, and 10,976,000 seasonally-adjusted claims respectively.

These numbers are continually revised.

The downward slope (pace of progress) has not changed since May. 

It’s continued state claims that determine the official unemployment rate, not that anyone of intelligence believes the BLS number.

All Continued Claims

All Continued Claims in 2020 Oct 7 Report

All Continued Claims are not seasonally adjusted. They also lag initial claims by two weeks and continued claims by a week.

The total for the latest week is 25.5million. This should realistically feed the U-6 unemployment rate but it doesn’t.

California Fraud

Bloomberg Econoday has this interesting blurb regarding California.

California is now offline when it comes to claims data as it scrambles to limit unemployment fraud. With the weekly estimate for the US’s largest state now frozen at a prior level of more than 260,000, forecasters see total initial claims easing slightly but not substantially to 819,000 in the October 3 week. This would compare with 837,000 in the prior week that saw only a small decline.

California unemployment fraud, who couldda possibly thunk that? 

Does fraud stop in California or is it pervasive?

Mish

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Today’s DOL Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims indicates continued improvement in the insured employment situation even though the initial claims remain stubbornly high.

The non-seasonal adjusted initial claims at 804,307 are up by 5,312 when compared to the previous week. However, the non-seasonal adjusted continuous insured unemployed at 10,612,021 have again decreased significantly by 1,010,280 from last week’s reported figures.

Also, the total persons claiming some form of UI benefit as of September 19 are reported by the DOL as 25,505,499, a decrease of 1,003,179 from last week’s figure.

These figures signal a continued improvement to the return to work numbers which could indicate a slight easing of the Covid-19 recession (green line on graph).

The figure below shows that currently the lowest unemployment rate should be 15.9%. And, if one added the historic 2.6% UCR-PCR spread, then the actual unemployment rate should be 18.0%.

In the current Covid-19 situation, we believe that the only meaningful figures from DOL’s weekly report are:

  • The non-seasonal adjusted Insured Unemployed.
  • The total of all persons claiming unemployment benefits in all programs, which includes persons receiving Covid-19 relief who would normally not fall into the insured employed, e.g. self-employed tech workers.

In the figure above we graph the following:

  1. The monthly unemployment rate (UER) as published by the BLS, plotted 2 weeks earlier from the reporting date. (The May UER which is published beginning June is plotted from mid-May to mid-June.
  2. The insured unemployed rate (IUR) is the percentage of insured unemployed persons (not seasonally adjusted) of the labor force. (The number of insured unemployed is published every Thursday, looking back 2 weeks in the DOL’s weekly Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims report. The labor force is published monthly by the BLS with the Employment Situation Summary.)
  3. The unemployed persons claiming rate (PCR) is the percentage

Here’s what you need to know:

Credit…Vincent Tullo for The New York Times

Applications for jobless benefits remained high last week, even as the collapse of stimulus talks in Washington raised fears of a new wave of layoffs.

More than 804,000 Americans filed new claims for state unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. That is up from 799,000 the week before, before accounting for seasonal patterns. Another 464,000 people applied for benefits under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which covers freelancers, self-employed workers and others left out of the regular unemployment system.

For the second week in a row, the reported number will carry a golden-state-sized asterisk: California last month announced that it would temporarily stop accepting new unemployment applications while it addresses a huge processing backlog and puts in place procedures to weed out fraud.

In the absence of up-to-date data, the Labor Department is assuming California’s claim number was unchanged from its pre-shutdown figure of more than 225,000 applications, or more than a quarter of the national total. The state began accepting new filings this week, and is expected to resume reporting data in time for next week’s report, though it isn’t yet clear how the backlog of claims filed this week will be reflected.

While the lack of data from California makes week-to-week comparisons difficult, the larger trend is clear: After falling swiftly from a peak of more than 6 million last spring, weekly jobless claims have stalled at a level far higher than the worst weeks of past recessions.

“The level of claims is still staggeringly high,” said Daniel Zhao,