Nearly 116,000 people in Massachusetts filed initial claims for unemployment benefits last week through a special program meant to cover those ineligible for traditional unemployment benefits during the Covid-19 pandemic.

That total is significantly higher than the 38,328 who filed for traditional benefits in the Bay State for the week ending May 16, a number that itself is huge compared with historical filings.

The special program, known as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), is meant to cover the self-employed, workers in the gig economy, and others not covered by the traditional program.

The PUA program launched on April 20 in Massachusetts. The nearly 116,000 initial filings last week were the most in Massachusetts since the program’s first week. Since April 20, more than 371,000 people have filed PUA claims in Massachusetts.

Payments through the PUA program depend on a recipient’s previous income and can last for up to 39 weeks. In Massachusetts, the maximum is the same for PUA as it is for the traditional program, at $823 per week. The program is federally funded.

A U.S. Department of Labor release on Thursday morning contained an error that made the state’s PUA claims last week appear much higher than they were in reality. A spokesman for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development provided the Business Journal with the corrected figure.

Meanwhile, traditional unemployment claims fell in Massachusetts for the seventh consecutive week. Since mid-March, more than 860,000 people in Massachusetts have made initial claims through that program. Nationwide, 2.4 million filed for traditional unemployment last week. That figure is seasonally adjusted, while the state-level numbers are not.

*by Greg Ryan via Boston Business Journal*