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New unemployment claims in Louisiana recovered after an unexpected spike.

One week after an unexpected and mysterious surge in unemployment claims in Louisiana, new jobless applications plummeted without explanation in the latest U.S. Department of Labor data released on Wednesday. 

There were 9,320 new unemployment claims across the state for the week ending Nov. 21 — down from a surge of more than 43,000 new claims the previous week, records show. 

Likewise, new applications for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which is mostly for independent contractor and so-called gig workers, dropped to only 9,697 new claims from more than 39,500 one week before. 

Numbers for those continuing to receive unemployment benefits last week were not yet available; the ranks of those traditionally unemployed hovered around 91,000 two weeks ago.

The leading industries with the most unemployment claim applications for last week also was not yet available. During the unexpected spike, which mirrored unemployment claims in early May as coronavirus restrictions put people out of work, was driven by the real estate, rental and leasing industry cluster, according to the state data, whereas most claims in past reports have come from the hard-hit food services and hotel accommodations category, followed by education and health services and construction.

New jobless applications had been on a mostly downward trend since late September. 

The Louisiana Workforce Commission has not responded to repeated requests for comments about last week's spike as to whether there was an actual surge, a glitch or potentially fraud. The data was submitted to the Department of Labor without comment. Some states offer explanations about their data, such as industries impacted. 

The U.S. Department of Labor said an unexpected spike in new unemployment claims is one indicator of potential fraud in the program and laid out the process for determining explanations.

If there is evidence of fraud, the federal government brings in the Office of the Inspector General and other resources through the unemployment insurance integrity center. 

"When that occurs, the department is immediately in contact with the state to assess the situation and work with the state to address it," according to a DOL spokesperson. "The Department is currently working with and supporting Louisiana's and other states' efforts to prevent, detect and recover fraudulent payments."


Email Kristen Mosbrucker at kmosbrucker@theadvocate.com.