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Initial unemployment claims remain on modest increase trend in N.C.
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Initial unemployment claims remain on modest increase trend in N.C.

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Daily initial state and federal unemployment insurance claims in North Carolina stayed on a modest uptick trend this week, the N.C. Division of Employment Security reported Friday.

There were 1,535 claims on Tuesday, 1,462 claims on Wednesday and 1,319 on Thursday.

DES spokesperson Kerry McComber has said it “generally has lower claims and call volume on Saturdays. It’s the weekend, and the new benefit week begins on Sunday.”

For example, the state reached July 4 a six-month high for daily UI claims at 9,985 because it represented a new quarterly reporting period for some claims. DES said the increase “was due to filing requirements at the beginning of a new calendar quarter.”

Altogether, there were 9,661 claims filed over the past seven days, compared with 9,500 over the previous seven-day period.

North Carolina is at 3.78 million state and federal unemployment claims for the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been 1.53 million individual claims.

Federal guidelines require a separate application for each unemployment program.

About 30% of the 5 million North Carolinians in the state’s workforce as of mid-June have filed a state or federal unemployment claim over the past 16 months.

The pandemic high for daily claims was 43,297 on Dec. 27. The temporary expiration of federal extended unemployment benefits in late December contributed to the record high.

By comparison, the daily low of 474 for the pandemic was set on June 19.

Since July 4, new UI claimants qualify for just 13 weeks of regular state UI benefits, down from 16 weeks from Jan. 1 through June 30.

The Republican legislative super-majority in 2013 approved a sliding scale for UI benefit weeks based on the unemployment rate.

Benefits run for 12 weeks — which the state had from July 2013 to January 2021 — up to a maximum of 20 weeks.

Before the UI law was passed, North Carolinians received a maximum of 26 weeks.

Benefit payments

North Carolina is at $12.76 billion in initial state and federal UI benefit payments for the pandemic.

Of that amount, regular state benefits are at just under $2 billion, while federal and state extended benefits are at $10.745 billion.

By far the biggest factor in UI benefit payments is the federal pandemic unemployment compensation (FPUC) program at just more than $7.01 billion. That represents about 55% of all UI benefit payments.

When the FPUC program’s weekly benefit was worth up to $600, unemployed and furloughed North Carolinians received just under $4.88 billion from late March 2020 through July 26, 2020.

Since the resumption, and with the benefit worth up to $300 a week, FPUC has paid about $2.13 billion in benefits to North Carolinians.

After regular state benefits, the other federal benefit programs providing more than $1 billion in payments have been the pandemic emergency unemployment compensation (PEUC) program at $1.61 billion, and the pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA) program at $1.19 billion.

On Thursday, the U.S. Labor Department listed North Carolina with 126,921 PEUC recipients as of July 10, as well as 1,315 PUA participants as of July 17 and 57,273 continuing claims as of July 10.

After $8.16 billion in overall state and federal unemployment benefits were paid from late March through Sept. 30, $4.6 billion has been paid since Oct. 1.

Expiring federal benefits

The two federal UI programs expire Sept. 6 unless extended by Congress, which analysts say is unlikely at this point of the pandemic and economic recovery.

On June 23, the General Assembly approved a Republican-sponsored bill compromise that requires North Carolina to withdraw early from the PEUC and MEUC programs. The effective date of the legislation would be 30 days after becoming law.

The Senate Bill 116 compromise also makes permanent changes to work-search requirements that significantly stiffen eligibility criteria, such as a claimant must respond within 48 hours of an employer’s interview request.

The state Senate voted 25-22 along party lines to approve the compromise. The state House voted 65-45 with three Democrats in support.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the bill as expected on July 2, citing the pending expiration date of the programs and the state having what he called “among the stingiest (state unemployment benefits) in the country.”

The bill was placed July 6 in the Senate Rules and Operations committee, where it has not been addressed since.

336-727-7376

@rcraverWSJ

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