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Jun 17, 2021 - Economy

4. States' weekly Pandemic Unemployment Assistance initial claims

New York weekly PUA initial claims
Data: Department of Labor; Chart: Axios Visuals

Experiences similar to Arizona's can be seen across the country.

Florida's official dashboard shows 111,904 unemployment claims in the week ending Jan. 30, and then 10,480 the following week, when fraud controls were introduced — a drop of 90.6%.

In Colorado, according to the official state dashboard, 2,107,988 claims have been sent to ID.me for testing. Of those, 268,060 — or just 12.7% — have been verified.

In Nebraska, the overall fraud rate within the unemployment program was 65.97%, according to a report from the state auditor.

The Department of Labor's data site provides information on all the states.

  • In New York, weekly PUA claims averaged 43,863 in the four weeks to March 20. Then fraud-prevention measures were put in place, and the average immediately dropped to 3,421 — a fall of 92.2%.
  • In California, PUA claims hit 405,878 in the week of August 29, and 440,882 in the week of September 5. After October 1, when it became harder for fraudsters to game the system, the numbers immediately crashed — there were just 14,843 in the week ending October 3 — and have stayed low ever since.

The big picture: Fraud doesn't happen evenly. Every state has a different system for claiming benefits, and tends to see a surge in fraudulent claims when a criminal syndicate manages to hack that particular system. (Pennsylvania, for instance, saw a large spike in fraudulent claims in May 2020.)

  • If fraud rates fall dramatically in one program or in one state, that doesn't mean fraud overall has fallen — it is just as likely to have moved to a different program or location.
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