Coronavirus News: Despite backlog, New York outperforming many states processing unemployment claims, data shows

NEW YORK (WABC) -- As the COVID-19 pandemic caused record levels of unemployment across the US, complaints about unprocessed claims for unemployment insurance became a top call to Eyewitness News.

Over eight weeks from late March to early May, data from the U.S. Department of Labor indicated more than 33 million people had filed unemployment claims -- and of those people, more than 12 million had not received benefits.

In the Tri-State region, more than 3.6 million people had filed claims, more than 2 million of them in New York, and more than 700,000 were still waiting for benefits, with more than 150,000 of them in New York.

In New York and New Jersey, just over one-fifth of the state workforce was reporting job loss, and in Connecticut, closer to one-third of the state workforce had reported the loss of a job.

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Nationwide, California was the only state that had received more unemployment claims than New York at just over 4.2 million claims for unemployment insurance, but California's workforce was also more than twice the size of New York.

On Twitter, individuals in crisis wrote us for help after "waiting weeks in pending and not getting answers."

Other Tweets read, "No one is addressing these system-wide issues affecting many, many people."

"I have no idea what happened and I haven't been able to get in touch with anyone at DOL," wrote another New Yorker.

"Please help...The system is broken," wrote another.

By analyzing the Department of Labor data, we found that while thousands of people were still waiting for benefits, roughly 11 out of 12 people who had filed for unemployment between March 21 and May 9 had received their benefits.

In fact, New York had processed a greater percentage of the claims it received than just about any other state.

We also compared New York to Florida, a state with a similarly sized workforce, but in Florida, just over half of the people who had filed claims were receiving benefits, a much smaller percentage.

New Jersey and Connecticut also struggled to keep up with the number of new claims.

In New Jersey, about one out of every three people who had filed an unemployment claim were not still not receiving benefits and in Connecticut, nearly half of the individuals who had filed claims were not receiving benefits.

Both New Jersey and Connecticut also had considerably fewer claims to process than New York. In New Jersey, more than one million claims had been filed, about half the number of claims filed in New York, and in Connecticut, just under 600,000 claims had been filed, just under a third of the claims filed in New York.

New York State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon spoke with us by phone about the state's efforts to get through its backlog.

"When you control for population, it's clear, we are well ahead of these other major states," she said. "Of course, for someone waiting for their first payment, these numbers provide cold comfort, and that is what drives our work every day to get more New Yorkers benefits faster."

In public statements, both the New Jersey and Connecticut Labor Departments also indicated staff was doing their best to process claims and work through unprecedented backlogs.

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