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Top federal pandemic unemployment relief program exceeds $6 billion in N.C.
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Top federal pandemic unemployment relief program exceeds $6 billion in N.C.

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Triad jobless rate reaches pandemic low of 5.9% in February, bolstered by modest hiring in Winston-Salem area

The primary federal unemployment benefit program for the COVID-19 pandemic has cleared $6 billion in North Carolina, the N.C. Division of Employment Security reported Friday.

The federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program has represented about 54% of the $11.05 billion in state and federal funding that’s been provided since mid-March 2020.

When the PUC 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.

Since the resumption with the benefit currently worth up to $300 a week, FPUC has paid about $1.12 billion in benefits to North Carolinians.

After $8.16 billion in state and federal unemployment benefits were paid from late March through Sept. 30, there had been just $2.89 billion since Oct. 1.

The latest Democratic-sponsored COVID-19 relief bill, which President Joe Biden signed into law March 11, extended the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation programs through at least Sept. 6.

As of 10 a.m. Friday, the PUA and PEUC programs had paid a combined $2.19 billion in benefits to North Carolinians.

The U.S. Labor Department listed North Carolina with 184,039 PEUC recipients as of March 20, as well as 2,574 PUA participants.

Sliding scale

As of Friday, regular state unemployment payments were at $1.89 billion, with just about $180 million being paid out since Oct. 1.

Most unemployed and furloughed North Carolinians began exhausting their 12 weeks of regular state unemployment benefits in June and well before Oct. 1.

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The maximum number of weeks was raised to 16 in January for new claimants.

However, with the state jobless rate at a COVID-19 pandemic low of 5.7% for February, it has some significant implications on North Carolinians who may be furloughed or see their job end in the second half of the year.

Based on the state’s sliding scale for number of benefit weeks, it’s likely the maximum number of weeks will fall back to 13 or 14 for new applicants beginning July 1.

The state had $3.85 billion in the state Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund in mid-March. State legislators said Sept. 2 that between $2.9 billion and $3 billion remained in the fund at that time. The third COVID-19 relief bill added $87 million.

Gov. Roy Cooper said Feb. 4 that the fund contains $2.59 billion, and that he supports drawing down additional money from the fund.

Claims

Daily state and federal unemployment claims have drifted down after reaching the high total for 2021 at 18,944 on Sunday.

The most recent high before Sunday was 21,309 on Dec. 28, which was the day after the pandemic high of 43,297 on Dec. 27.

Meanwhile, the pandemic daily low for claims is 1,005 on March 27.

The temporary expiration of federal extended unemployment benefits in late December contributed to the record high.

Altogether, there were 39,928 state and federal UI claims filed over the past seven reports that included 4,529 reported for Tuesday, 3,309 for Wednesday and 2,874 for Thursday.

Overall for the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been 3.57 million state and federal unemployment claims in North Carolina.

There have been 1.48 million North Carolinians applying for initial regular state and/or federal unemployment benefits. Some federal programs require filing additional state claims to qualify.

About 29.2% of the 5.03 million North Carolinians considered part of the state’s workforce as of mid-February have filed a state or federal unemployment claim.

336-727-7376

@rcraverWSJ

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