Unemployment Statistics During the Pandemic Have Been Inflated By Backlogs, According To GAO Report

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The 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 amount of individuals claiming unemployment during the pandemic, according to a federal report released Monday.

The Government Accountability Office, the nonpartisan auditing agency that works for Congress, was unsparing about the problems with unemployment statistics, as part of a lengthy report that looked at the country’s response to the coronavirus.

In particular, unemployment numbers have likely been inflated due to issues with backlogs that have plagued many state unemployment systems, it found.

The Labor Department doesn’t actually count each person who is claiming jobless benefits every week. Historically, the agency has used the states’ tally of ongoing continued claims as a stand-in for the number of people receiving unemployment benefits at any given time. And each week of unemployment is counted as a separate continued claim, the GAO noted.

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