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Washington sees spike in unemployment fraud in May

The fraudulent claim applications were identified by ESD controls and not paid out, according to the department.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Editor's note: The above video on a Washington unemployment fraud arrest originally aired on May 17.

The Washington Employment Security Department (ESD) reported a spike in fraudulent unemployment applications for the second week of May. 

Unemployment claims were up by 18% over the previous week with 19,619 initial unemployment claims filed between May 9 and May 15, according to a release from ESD. The four-week average for initial claims is 14,590.

A rise in fraudulent unemployment applications is partially to blame for the increase, ESD reported. The fraudulent claims were factored into the total number of initial claims, even though they were not paid out. The department did not specify how many fraudulent claims were identified. 

Layoffs in health care and social assistance, retail and education services also contributed to the increase in claims, according to ESD. 

A state audit released in April revealed Washington lost $646 million to unemployment fraud in 2020. Out of all of the funds misappropriated, $369 million was recovered.  

So far one arrest has been made, and investigations into unemployment fraud during the height of the pandemic are ongoing.