I am responding to the May 14 story “Maine knowingly reported misleading jobless data.”

As commissioner of the Maine Department of Labor, I take the responsibility to report accurate, concise data about unemployment seriously.

I want to be clear: The Department of Labor did not, and does not, report misleading jobs data. The Press Herald story inaccurately portrayed the work of our department, how we report data and how this unprecedented crisis is affecting both.

Every Thursday, we report the number of initial and weekly claims filed for unemployment benefits during the previous week. This is a longstanding practice.

However, this raw number of filed claims is not, and has never been, a direct measure of the number of people who are unemployed. This is particularly evident now, as new federal programs have prompted individual workers to submit claims for both state and federal benefits.

Neither are unemployment claims tied to the unemployment rate. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates the unemployment rate using primarily worker surveys and labor force calculations, not claims or eligibility for benefits. Maine’s unemployment rate for April will be released on May 22.

This department will continue to report raw claims numbers as we have done every week, and moving forward, we will go beyond that requirement to report the number of people who have filed those claims.

Laura Fortman

commissioner, Maine Department of Labor


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