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SC's unemployment system still helping tens of thousands of people

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Tens of thousands of South Carolina residents continue to rely on unemployment benefits as the economy continues its slow climb out of the pandemic-induced recession. 

The latest numbers released by the U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday suggests roughly 179,000 applicants were filing jobless claims with the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce in the middle of November. 

The report also showed that nearly 2,700 new filings were submitted into the system last week, which often signals layoffs or furloughs. One silver lining is that's about 500 fewer compared to the previous seven-day period. 

Still, South Carolina has not fully rebounded from the severe downturn it endured earlier this year. 

The latest tally of jobless aid recipients followed a new U.S. Government Accountability Office report that raised concerns over the accuracy of the weekly unemployment claim numbers. 

The way the Department of Labor calculates the number of people who are continually filing for unemployment over multiple weeks has caused issues in reporting this year, the GAO said.

Those so-called continued claims are a metric that economists frequently use to judge the health of the workforce. But processing backlogs at the state level and other problems caused by the pandemic have skewed those numbers this year, the GAO reported.

"Issues arising from the pandemic have made this practice problematic — potentially overstating the number of individuals in certain circumstances and understating the number in others," the report said. 

Even so, other statistics reported by DEW each week confirm that South Carolina still has an unemployment crisis on its hands.  

The state agency reported Thursday that 119,420 residents were receiving money as a result of their unemployment claims last week. They were vetted by DEW and found to be qualified for up to $326 per week. 

Many of the applicants could soon lose that financial support, as a number of federal jobless programs are set to expire later this month. 

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Reach Andrew Brown at 843-708-1830 or follow him on Twitter @andy_ed_brown.

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