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Labor Department Published ‘Flawed Estimates’ of Weekly Jobless Claims, Watchdog Says

Labor Department Published ‘Flawed Estimates’ of Weekly Jobless Claims, Watchdog Says

WASHINGTON—The nation’s system for providing unemployment benefits to jobless workers has consistently produced inaccurate data and lower-than-appropr

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WASHINGTON—The nation’s system for providing unemployment benefits to jobless workers has consistently produced inaccurate data and lower-than-appropriate payouts to some workers amid the Covid-19 pandemic, a government watchdog said Monday.

The Labor Department’s weekly reports on jobless claims have published “flawed estimates of the number of individuals receiving benefits each week throughout the pandemic,” the Government Accountability Office said in a periodic report.

In addition, a program created by Congress to provide jobless benefits to workers who are normally not eligible for them has underpaid recipients in most states. As a result, the average weekly payout under what is called the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which is available to gig-economy workers and the self-employed, is below the poverty line in 70% of states that reported data.

“The majority of states have been paying PUA claimants the minimum allowable benefit instead of the amount they are eligible for based on prior earnings,” the GAO said. While states are obligated to pay out the full amount that is owed “with the greatest promptness that is administratively feasible,” Labor Department officials told the GAO they didn’t know how many states had begun working to do so.

The Labor Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

This post first appeared on wsj.com

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