South Carolina’s jobless rate was announced to be 11.1 percent in August, the fourth-highest rate in the country. But federal officials say that number may not be entirely accurate.
A Labor Department report says South Carolina has paid out more than $356 million in improper unemployment benefits over the past three years. According to the report, South Carolina’s improper payout rate is nearly 18 percent— one of the highest in the country.
The agency says the biggest reason is that some people still file claims even after getting a job. The Labor Department also blamed employers that don’t always provide timely information to the state about an employee’s firing. For example, if a person files a claim saying they were laid off, the state Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) would check with the company. But if that company does not respond, the state is forced to assume the employee is eligible for the money.
A Department of Employment and Workforce spokesperson claimed the Labor Department only looked at a small sample size and did not account for problems the agency already corrected– distorting the actual rate of improper benefits. Adrienne Fairwell told WSPA-TV in Spartanburg that state officials believe the actual rate is closer to 10 percent.
Anyone who is caught receiving improper benefits does have to pay them back. Fairwell said the agency is working to cross-reference its unemployment rolls with the Department of Social Services to check wage records and determine if any employees’ names match.