Number of people seeking unemployment insurance still at historically high level

The number of people seeking unemployment aid increased slightly last week to 870,000 nationally, a historically high number that shows that the coronavirus  pandemic continues to impact restaurants, airlines, hotels and many other businesses six months after it hit the U.S. © Provided by Boston Herald FILE – In this […]

The number of people seeking unemployment aid increased slightly last week to 870,000 nationally, a historically high number that shows that the coronavirus  pandemic continues to impact restaurants, airlines, hotels and many other businesses six months after it hit the U.S.



a store front at day: FILE – In this Aug. 6, 2020, file photo, a customer leaves a Pier 1 retail store, which is going out of business, during the coronavirus pandemic in Coral Gables, Fla. The Labor Department reported unemployment numbers Thursday, Sept. 3. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)


© Provided by Boston Herald
FILE – In this Aug. 6, 2020, file photo, a customer leaves a Pier 1 retail store, which is going out of business, during the coronavirus pandemic in Coral Gables, Fla. The Labor Department reported unemployment numbers Thursday, Sept. 3. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

State figures for the week ending Sept. 19 were unavailable yesterday. But the previous week, 18,388 initial unemployment insurance claims were filed in Massachusetts, down by 268 from the week ending Sept. 5, but still a huge increase over the 14,360 claims filed last September.

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“Claims are still elevated at an eye-watering level,” said Daniel Zhao, senior economist at Glassdoor, one of the world’s leading jobs and recruiting websites. “States that were hit hard by the virus are still unwinding the effects. Especially in the Northeast, there’s a big question about what will happen in the winter. Many restaurants, for example, will not be able to stay open.”

Massachusetts has the 10th-highest unemployment rate in the nation — 10.5% — still an improvement over the 16.1% it had in July, which was the highest in the U.S. The national unemployment rate is now 8.4%.

The number of U.S. unemployment insurance claims coincides with evidence that some newly laid-off Americans are facing delays in receiving benefits as state agencies intensify efforts to combat fraudulent applications and clear their pipelines of a backlog of jobless claims.

The federal government three weeks ago gave Massachusetts almost $2.5 million to combat unemployment insurance fraud.

“There are many scammers attacking the system,” said Jay Zagorsky of the Questrom School of Business at Boston University.

Zagorsky, who has never applied for unemployment insurance, said he received a letter two weeks ago from the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance, telling him he was approved and could start collecting benefits.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the number of people who are continuing to receive unemployment benefits declined to 12.6 million. The steady decline in that figure over the past several months reflects that some of the unemployed are being re-hired. Yet it also indicates that others have exhausted their regular jobless aid.

Herald wire services contributed to this report.

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