Wilton unemployment numbers vastly undercounted
WILTON — The state Department of Labor released unemployment numbers for April but it cautioned they “must be considered inaccurate.”
The population survey, which forms the foundation of how the statistics are calculated, was flawed, which caused the unemployment figures to be “severely underestimated.”
That is clear from the get-go, with the table showing 140,700 people unemployed for a state unemployment rate of 8.0 percent. The state received more than 430,000 unemployment claims in the first six weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused all non-essential businesses to close and put many of their employees out of work.
For Wilton, the state shows an unemployment rate of 5.2 percent. First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice believes 15 percent is more like it.
In March, before the pandemic, Wilton’s unemployment rate was a healthy 3 percent. The workforce was counted as 8,374 people with just 252 people listed as unemployed.
Although its April numbers were incomplete, between March 15 and April 26, the state reported 834 Wilton residents had filed for unemployment benefits. That amounted to an unemployment rate of 9.9 percent.
One problem with the April numbers is that the state shows Wilton’s workforce as only 7,444 — a reduction of 930 people. It also shows only 387 people out of work.
First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice said she found it “hard to believe the state would publish such inaccurate numbers.”
In responding to a request for comment on the numbers, she looked at the January 2020 labor force, which numbered 8,476.
“By removing more than 1,000 people from the labor force, they aren’t including them in their unemployment rate. Basically the rate is meaningless,” she said.
Updated numbers on the processed initial claims for unemployment benefits reported on a town-by-town basis show from March 1 through April 26 — the only time period it can verify — 974 Wilton residents filed for unemployment.
“That reporting is also inaccurate, as the by-town breakout lags the actual number of initial claims filed,” Vanderslice said. Statewide, that spreadsheet shows 330,000 claims through April 26, when labor officials have said there were 430,000 claims by the end of that month.
By her reckoning, only three-fourths of the initial claims are reflected on the by-town report and the number of Wilton residents filing claims could be as high as 1,300.
Using January’s labor force, that would be an unemployment rate in the vicinity of 15 percent.
As of April 26, there were 719 Wilton residents receiving unemployment benefits, according to the state, but Vanderslice believes this number is underreported as well.
According to the state, the high volume of claims being filed is resulting in a processing backlog of three to five weeks.