Mass. unemployment claims unexpectedly increase

After 9 weeks of decline, numbers take jump upward

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

NEW STANDARD UNEMPLOYMENT claims in Massachusetts bounced back up last week after nine straight weeks of decline, even as claims at the national level continued to fall.

State labor officials on Thursday reported receiving 44,660 applications for traditional unemployment benefits between May 31 and June 6, a roughly 65 percent increase over the 27,034 filed in the previous seven-day period. New claims for the expanded-eligibility Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program slowed over the same span, dropping about 60 percent to 20,991.

Meanwhile, the federal Department of Labor said American workers filed almost 1.54 million claims last week, a drop from the nearly 1.90 million a week earlier.

It was not immediately clear why Massachusetts claims increased for the first time in more than two months while the national numbers continued to drop. A spokesperson for the state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development could not be reached immediately for comment.

Michael Goodman, a MassBenchmarks co-editor and executive director of the UMass Dartmouth Public Policy Center, said in an email that it is “hard to know how to interpret the discrepancy,” though fraudulent claims — something the Baker administration said it’s investigating without revealing the scale of the problems — could play a role.

Meet the Author

Chris Lisinski

Reporter, State House News Service
That latest national weekly claims total is the lowest since the COVID-19 outbreak prompted widespread business closures and a national recession, but was still nearly three times as many as any pre-pandemic week.

Since March 15, Massachusetts labor officials have received more than 968,000 initial claims for standard unemployment insurance and another 594,000 for the expanded PUA program. On June 19, officials will release data indicating how many jobs the state gained or lost in May and what the monthly unemployment rate was, offering more insight into the depth of the economic damage wrought by the pandemic and the mandatory business shutdowns it prompted.