Jobless claims fall, though data skewed by fraud

Federal data show a decline in first-time jobless claims, though fraudulent activity may be skewing recent data. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
1 of 2 | Federal data show a decline in first-time jobless claims, though fraudulent activity may be skewing recent data. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

May 18 (UPI) -- First-time claims for unemployment insurance declined by 22,000 from the prior week, federal data released Thursday show, though figures may be skewed by fraudulent activity in Massachusetts.

Data from the Labor Department show a seasonally adjusted figure for first-time claims over the week ending May 13 at 242,000, a decline of 22,000 from last week. The less volatile, four-week moving average showed a decline of 1,000 from the prior week to 244,250.


The four-week moving average for jobless claims through the week ending May 6 was the highest it's been since November 2021.

Claims for successive weeks over the seven-day period ending April 29 totaled 1.68 million, a decline of 29,380 from the prior week, though that is about 300,000 more than during the same period last year.

States with the highest number of initial claims for the week ending May 6, meanwhile, were Massachusetts, with a gain of 6,420, Missouri, with 2,596 in new filings and California, with 1,977 more initial claims than the prior week.

Massachusetts data, however, may be skewing the overall picture. Matthew Kitsos, a spokesman for the Massachusetts labor department said there was an uptick in fraudulent filings for unemployment insurance in the state.


"Fraudulent attempts are increasing across the country, and Massachusetts is no exception," he said. "The increase seen in initial weekly unemployment claims is not reflective of individuals filing for unemployment insurance but rather fraudulent attempts on the system."

That said, continuing claims suggest some level of weakening in the U.S. labor market, which should be welcome news for policymakers at the Federal Reserve working to cool the economy with successive rate hikes.

Speaking Thursday, Philip Jefferson, a governor at the Federal Reserve, said there may be some headwinds in the labor market given recent trends pointing to a slowdown in the U.S. economy.

"My expectation is that the slowing economy will soon begin to reduce job growth, with labor supply and labor demand coming into better balance," he said. "Data on job openings and voluntary quits by workers indicate that labor demand has eased somewhat, and this is reflected also in a modest decline in the growth of average hourly earnings, from a 12-month rate of 5% in November to 4.4% in April."

Minutes from the Fed's latest meeting are released next week and policymakers meet in early June to consider the next move in the fight against inflation.


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