North Carolina experienced an 18.2% jump in initial unemployment-insurance benefit claims last week, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday.
North Carolina had 6,972 claims for the week that ended April 3, compared with a revised 5,896 the previous week.
It was the first week-over-week increase since the department’s Jan. 14 report.
The state ranked 24th in the number of unemployment claim filings in the nation, up four spots from the previous week.
By comparison, the state’s highest weekly total for claims related to the COVID-19 pandemic is 172,745 for the week that ended March 28, 2020.
The American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11, extended federal UI benefit programs through Sept. 6.
The extended programs include: pandemic emergency unemployment compensation (PEUC); pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA); federal pandemic unemployment compensation (FPUC); and mixed earners unemployment compensation (MEUC).
As of 10 a.m. Tuesday, the PUA and PEUC programs had paid a combined $2.18 billion in benefits to North Carolinians.
U.S. Labor listed North Carolina with 184,039 PEUC recipients as of March 20, as well as 2,574 PUA participants.
North Carolina has surpassed $11 billion in state and federal unemployment benefit payments for the COVID-19 pandemic, the N.C. Division of Employment Security reported Tuesday.
Nearly $6 billion, or 54%, of those funds have come from the federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program.
When the program’s weekly benefit was worth up to $600, unemployed and furloughed North Carolinians received just under $4.88 billion from late March through July 26.
Since the resumption with the benefit currently worth up to $300 a week, FPUC has paid about $1.11 billion in benefits to North Carolinians.
The national unemployment insurance claims outlook continued its up-and-down nature with 744,000 initial claims filed last week, up 2.2% from a revised 728,000 the previous week.
The 658,000 initial claims from the week of March 20 represented a weekly low since the brunt of the pandemic began to be experienced in mid-March 2020.
There were 18.16 million individuals nationwide with an active claim as of March 20. About 4.98 million workers drew state benefits and 13.18 million received federal benefits.
“Initial claims have been stuck between 700,000 and 900,000, with a few exceptions, since August,” said Gus Faucher, chief economist with PNC Financial Services Group.
“There are more than 18 million people receiving some form of unemployment benefit, with no real improvement over the past three months.”
However, Faucher said that “the labor market is getting better,” citing the adding of 916,000 jobs during March.”
“With vaccine distribution continuing and stimulus payments sent to many households in January and then again in March, economic activity is picking up from a lull in late 2020 and early 2021.
“Strong job growth will continue, and unemployment insurance claims will fall through the rest of 2021 as the economy improves,” Faucher said.
Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com, said that “while it is disappointing and somewhat surprising to see the number of seasonally adjusted new unemployment claims rise for a second straight week, it is understandable that some employers continue to struggle.”
“It is important to remember the still widespread financial distress stemming from the economic downturn.
“We’ve come a long way, but healing of the economy and job market remain works in progress,” Hamrick said. “Better times are ahead.”