State continues to battle multiple unemployment fraud claims

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio continues to see sky-high claims for unemployment with fraud blamed for part of the new record numbers, according to the latest jobless data released Thursday.

Ohioans filed 101,825 initial claims for unemployment for the week ending Feb. 20, with at least 29,000 of those flagged for potential fraud, the state Department of Job and Family Services said.

Over the past year, initial weekly jobless claims have been far higher than before the coronavirus pandemic, with figures ranging from around 20,000 to more than 40,000.

But beginning the week ending Feb. 6, the agency received 140,444 initial claims for unemployment, a figure that has slowly declined but still is considered artificially inflated by fraud. The human services agency has set up a hotline and online reporting center to notify the state of potential fraud.

About 1.5 million people in Ohio had received the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine as of Wednesday, or about 13% of the population.

The 7-day rolling average of daily new cases in Ohio did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 3,129 new cases per day on Feb. 10 to 2,127 new cases per day on Feb. 24, according to an Associated Press analysis of data provided by The COVID Tracking Project.