During the height of the Great Recession, when 10 percent of workers were out of a job, unemployment insurance pumped $155 billion into the pockets of laid-off workers. Today, with unemployment at less than 5 percent, the state-administered systems that distribute such benefits receive less attention. Even so, they still pay out hefty sums in benefits -- $32.9 billion in 2016. They also pay out hefty sums improperly.
Unemployment insurance has one of the highest error rates among state benefits programs, worse than Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Rental Housing Assistance. In fiscal 2015, the program made $3.5 billion in improper payments, an error rate of 10.7 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.