Record-breaking unemployment claims may be vast undercount

The differences between unemployment claims reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and government reports from the ground can be huge.

Last week, more than 1.7 million calls were made to the Department of Labor of the State of New York In search of unemployment benefits, the department reported on Twitter on Wednesday. According to DOL, however, only 80,334 New Yorkers applied for benefits.

New York is ground zero for the coronavirus pandemic and accounts for half of all reported cases across the country.

“If you weren’t able to use our phone and / or online system this week, please keep trying,” the New York Employment Agency tweeted Wednesday to address growing concerns. “You will continue to receive the full UI benefits until your unemployment date.”

The department announced a week ago that its website had an average of 250,000 registrations per day. The company hires an additional 200 people, increased server capacity, and hired 700 people to answer calls.

In Texas, said the State Labor Commission Last week, calls came in from more than 800,000 people trying to file unemployment claims, the Dallas Morning News reported on Wednesday. However, DOL only reported 155,657 new claims there.

California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Wednesday that the state has received more than 1 million claims in the past two weeks. But last week, DOL made only 186,809 new claims last week.

AFL-CIO chief economist Bill Spriggs noted that some states “make unemployment insurance particularly difficult” and that layoffs focus heavily on the service industry, “where workers are usually prevented from claiming benefits”.

Also excluded from DOL is the large number of unemployed who are not entitled to unemployment benefits, such as independent contractors (“gig workers”), those who do not earn enough to qualify and those who have not worked long enough a new job to qualify.

The Senate’s $ 2 trillion coronavirus package, adopted late Wednesday, would create a new fund to expand eligibility for these uncovered workers and add an additional $ 600 a week.

Marie French contributed to this report.

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