North Carolina has surpassed the 1 million threshold for claimants who have received state or federal unemployment insurance benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The N.C. Division of Employment Security reported Friday that about 65% of UI applicants have been approved for benefits, while 34% did not meet eligibility requirements.
DES also reported the state crossed the 3.8 million mark for total state and federal claims filed.
There have been 1.53 million individual claims. Federal guidelines require a separate application for each unemployment program.
New daily claims were down slightly from Tuesday through Thursday as two key federal benefits are set to expire on Sept. 4.
There were 1,457 claims Tuesday, 1,359 on Wednesday and 1,304 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 a six-month high on July 4 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 9,124 claims filed over the past seven days, compared with 9,843 over the previous seven-day period.
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 13 weeks of regular state UI benefits.
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.
North Carolina is at $12.94 billion in initial state and federal UI benefit payments for the pandemic.
Of that amount, regular state benefits are at $2.01 billion, while federal and state extended benefits are at $10.93 billion.
By far the biggest factor in UI benefit payments is the federal pandemic unemployment compensation (FPUC) program at $7.12 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 $2.24 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 $1.66 billion, and the pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA) program at $1.2 billion.
On Thursday, the U.S. Labor Department listed North Carolina with 126,621 PEUC recipients as of July 24, as well as 1,666 PUA participants as of July 31 and 52,910 continuing claims as of July 24.
Expiring federal benefits
The two federal UI programs expire Sept. 4 unless extended by Congress, which analysts say is unlikely at this point of the pandemic and economic recovery.
A total of 26 conservative-leaning states have ended their participation in two programs.
At this point, it appears North Carolina will allow beneficiaries to receive the two benefits after Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed on July 2 a Republican-sponsored compromise that requires DES to withdraw early from the PEUC and MEUC programs.
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 NCWorks program for the unemployed provides assistance, such as job training scholarships.
The scholarships can help pay for short-term workforce training or a two-year degree that provides an entry point into a high-demand career field. The training may be provided by community colleges or by other types of eligible training providers.
For more information, go to www.NCWorks.gov, or call (855) NCWORKS.