THE DISTRICT'S continuing difficulty in getting out unemployment checks represents, in part, merely a wrinkle in a new system the Department of Employment Services is using to get checks to the unemployed more easily. So, in a way, this is a side effect of progress. But that fact can be of little comfort to the estimated hundreds of people who have not received checks owed them. One woman said she has not had an unemployment check for six weeks. She is borrowing from friends and her savings as she tries to straighten out her problem with the people at employment services. People without substantial savings or friends able to give them a loan are in a more precarious position.

Ivanhoe Donaldson, the director of employment services, says the change in the unemployment check system will ease the long lines that regularly form at the agency's main office as a result of problems with checks. But people in line say that signing up for the checks or filling out the weekly forms never took so long under the old system as it is taking under the new. Mr. Donaldson blames the problem on a loss of some unemployment information and unexpectedly heavy caseloads at some offices. The missing information was misplaced, he says, in the course of decentralizing the activities from the main office to the five branches.

Whatever the reason, something had better be done about it. Despite its good intentions, the employment services department is leaving some people penniless who are entitled to unemployment pay. A recent check showed lines still at centers around town where people were asking that they get at least one check so they might buy necessities. This is an emergency situation for those people, and Mr. Donaldson would be wise to make some special arrangement quickly to get checks to people who cannot wait for the wrinkles to be ironed out of the new unemployment system.