The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) is out with an audit concluding – in what the Washington Post described as “unsparing” terms – that “he nation’s weekly unemployment statistics have been plagued by backlogs, fraud and inconsistent data reporting state by state, making them a seriously flawed measurement that has likely overstated the number of individuals claiming unemployment during the pandemic.”
Some context from the Post story:
“The Labor Department doesn’t actually count each person who is claiming jobless benefits every week. Instead, the agency uses a tally of ongoing state claims as a stand-in for the total number of people receiving unemployment benefits at any given time across the country, which it calls continuing claims … Before the pandemic, this was an acceptable approximation. But due to the massive level of backlogs, as well as the ability for some workers to file claims retroactively, this has resulted in a significant number of extra claims during the pandemic, the GAO said.”
The reason this is a problem? “Unemployment claims have served as a weekly indicator for analysts and policymakers about the health of the labor market and broader economy as a whole.”
So what the GAO is saying is that things have not been quite as bad as the government has led us to believe. Which I guess is good news, except that it is a little disconcerting that in 2020 the systems can be so dysfunctional.
Is the glass half-full? Or half-empty? I’m not sure, except that I think I need a drink.
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