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Weekly unemployment benefit filings remain on downward trend in N.C.

Weekly unemployment benefit filings remain on downward trend in N.C.

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Initial unemployment-insurance benefit claims in North Carolina dropped again last week, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday.

The state had 7,067 claims for the week that ended Nov. 14, down from a revised 8,291 the previous week.

North Carolina had the 26th-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, 742,000 initial claims were filed last week, up from a revised 711,000 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 20.32 million individuals with an active claim as of Oct. 31, down from 21.16 million as of Oct. 24. The breakdown is 7.25 million workers drawing state benefits and 13.07 million federal benefits.

“As the nation slogs through the eighth month of the pandemic, jobless workers are increasingly relying on these federal benefits, as opposed to state aid," said Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at progressive think tank The Century Foundation.

"Although some workers have been called back to work, the real untold story in the drop in state claims is workers exhausting benefits."

“The data released this morning comes before many restrictions put in place to staunch the latest wave of the pandemic, and the trend may worsen," Stetter said.

State benefits

Since mid-March, 1.35 million North Carolinians have filed a state and/or federal jobless claim. There were 5,433 claims filed Wednesday.

The daily filing peak has been 34,706 on March 30, while the low has been 2,025 on Nov. 7.

The total number of filed claims is at 2.78 million since mid-April.

North Carolina is at the $8.71 billion mark for state and federal UI payments during the pandemic.

The payments feature two state and five federal programs, of which the largest — the federal $600 weekly benefit supplement — was allowed to expire by Congress on July 26.

Of the remaining six programs, four remain active on a daily basis, while the other two have had payments slow drastically in recent weeks.

DES began reporting Oct. 23 the statewide totals from the temporary $50 increase in regular state UI payments.

The payment comes from what is known as the increased benefit amount (IBA) program. Payments were at $79.6 million as of 10 a.m. Thursday. The increase is estimated by DES to benefit between 15% and 20% of current UI claimants.

The extra benefit is scheduled to be paid through the week that ends Dec. 26.

The federal PEUC (pandemic emergency unemployment compensation) and PUA (pandemic unemployment assistance) programs also are scheduled to expire Dec. 26 unless extended by Congress during the upcoming lame-duck session.

As of 10 a.m. Thursday, the PEUC program had paid $671.4 million in benefits to North Carolinians since April, while the PUA program has paid $652.3 million.

The Century Foundation estimates that 12 million Americans will be affected if the two programs expire, including 95,535 in North Carolina.

"When it comes to relief, nothing is more important than providing a bridge to better times for those displaced from work by COVID-19," Stetter said.

"Failing to do so will unleash untold hardship and ultimately slow the economic recovery. We can do better."

The extended state benefits program has paid out $150 million overall. Those payments were reduced on Oct. 10, going from up to 9½ weeks to up to six weeks.

Those benefits are available to certain UI claimants who have exhausted up to 12 weeks of regular state UI benefits and up to 13 weeks of federal PECU payments.

Regular state UI payments are at $1.76 billion with only about $70 million being paid out since Oct. 1.

Currently, North Carolinians can draw up to 12 weeks of regular state UI benefits over a 12-month period. The number of weeks will expand to 16 for new claimants in January, under a sliding scale in the state's unemployment-benefits law.

The state had $3.85 billion in the state UI 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.

The federal payments include $584.2 million from a projected $716.6 million from six weeks' worth of federal Lost Wages Assistance funding. There have been just $13.6 million in payments since Oct. 1.

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@rcraverWSJ

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