Initial unemployment benefit claims in North Carolina surged again last week, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday.
The state had 19,080 claims for the week that ended Oct. 10, up 22.3% from a revised 15,534 the previous week. It is the second consecutive weekly increase after nine weeks of decline.
North Carolina had the 14th highest unemployment claim filings in the nation last week. The state’s highest weekly total for claims related to the COVID-19 pandemic is 172,745 for the week that ended March 28.
Nationwide, 898,000 initial claims were filed last week, up from a revised 843,000 the previous week.
By comparison, the national weekly peak to date was the 6.87 million claims filed the week that ended March 28.
There were 25.3 million individuals with an active claim as of Sept. 26, down from 26.04 million as of Sept. 12. The breakdown is 11.4 million workers drawing state benefits and 13.9 million federal benefits.
Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at The Century Foundation and an expert on unemployment insurance, said Thursday that the latest unemployment report "comes as the hard reality of failed stimulus negotiations is hitting home for the workers who filed an initial or continuing claims for jobless benefits last week."
“The already dire situation will only worsen unless leaders in Washington can cut through the election year fog and deal with unemployment legislation in the coming months."
The N.C. Division of Employment Security reported 4,944 initial unemployment insurance claims Thursday for an overall total of 1.32 million since mid-March.
The claims have decreased since hitting a three-month high of 18,118 on Oct. 4. The daily filing peak has been 34,706 on March 30.
Many people have had to file a second initial claim to begin receiving federal benefits. There have been 2.56 million in overall claims.
A large number of the new claims the past three weeks came from individuals reaching one of two filing limitations.
About 31% of the 4.26 million North Carolinians considered part of the state’s workforce as of mid-August have filed a state or federal unemployment claim.
About 69% of claimants, or 908,482, have been approved for benefits, while 29%, or 384,568, were determined to not be eligible.
State and federal UI benefit payments are at $8.3 billion in North Carolina, with the state's contribution still at 21% of the total. State UI payments are at $1.72 billion as of 10 a.m. Thursday.
By comparison, the $600 weekly federal UI supplement has paid $4.79 billion. That is the UI program that Congress allowed to expire July 26.
The state had $3.85 billion in the state Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund in mid-March when the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic began to be experienced. 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.
The left-leaning N.C. Justice Center has said the state's economy has been losing about $350 million each week since the expiration of the $600 federal supplement.
The federal payments include $577.1 million from a projected $716.6 million from six weeks' worth of federal Lost Wages Assistance funding. The Federal Emergency Management Agency said Sept. 15 that North Carolina has reached its limit for the program.
A temporary $50 increase in regular state unemployment-benefit payments is projected to begin by Oct. 30. DES estimates between 15% and 20% of current UI claimants will be eligible for the extra $50.
The extra benefit is scheduled to be paid from the week that ended Sept. 5 through the week that ends Dec. 26. Payments would be made retroactively to the week that ended Sept. 5.
That program, known as federal extended benefits, shifted Saturday from lasting up to 9½ weeks to up to six weeks for those newly eligible for the benefits.
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