Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Ten Percent Rise Overwhelms

The AP misleads again:

State unemployment claim systems overwhelmed
ALBANY, N.Y. – Electronic unemployment filing systems have crashed in at least three states in recent days amid an unprecedented crush of thousands of newly jobless Americans seeking benefits, and other states were adjusting their systems to avoid being next.

About 4.5 million Americans are collecting jobless benefits, a 26-year high, so the Web sites and phone systems now commonly used to file for benefits are being tested like never before.

Oh noes! Three states! All because of the people Bush fired! But this puzzled me. Me being, like my brother before me, blessed with the superpower called math. How could a rise from 6.1 to 6.7 bring such chaos?

Well you read further to find out that of the three states that crashed: One had a software glitch ("It's designed to handle this volume of calls, but the authentication process didn't work as it should have.") One had a phone line problem. ("Right now, everything is back to normal,") and one was California (which implies, "someone was off getting high.")

Mentioned in passing is this:
Some states attribute the increase in call volume in part to an extension of federal emergency unemployment compensation from 13 weeks to 20 weeks in late November.

"Some states" attribute? OK, it's a quibble, but shouldn't that be: "some states, with access to math, attribute,"? Look, a rise from 6.1 to 6.7 is about 10%, but that is dwarfed by the number of people kept on the rolls by extending benefits for 7 weeks. (54%) And I'm not saying benefit time shouldn't have been extended, just that it has more of an effect than the 10% rise in claims.

Please AP, don't sound the alarm that the system is crashing on a medium where all you have to do is type "e-bay" or "amazon" to see smoothly running systems handling much higher volume.