The number of North Carolinians filing initial unemployment-insurance benefit claims resumed a downward trend last week after a one-week uptick, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday.
North Carolina had 4,823 claims for the week that ended July 17, compared with a revised 5,355 the previous week.
The initial UI claims for the week that ended July 10 was the first week-over-week increase since early April.
The state was 24th in the nation in the number of unemployment filings, down one spot from last week.
By comparison, the state’s highest weekly total for claims related to the COVID-19 pandemic has been 172,745 for the week that ended March 28, 2020.
The American Rescue Plan Act 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 PEUC and PUA programs had paid a combined $2.98 billion in benefits to North Carolinians.
U.S. Labor listed North Carolina with 126,494 PEUC recipients as of July 3, as well as 1,315 PUA participants as of July 10 and 56,797 continuing claims as of July 3.
North Carolina is at $12.66 billion in initial state and federal UI benefit payments for the pandemic as of 10 a.m. Tuesday.
Of that amount, regular state benefits are at $1.99 billion, while federal and state extended benefits are at $10.67 billion.
By far the biggest factor in UI benefit payments is the federal pandemic unemployment compensation (FPUC) program at $6.95 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 $2.07 billion in benefits to North Carolinians.
National unemployment insurance claims rose by 51,000 to 419,000 for the week that ended July 17.
The previous week’s total of 368,000 was a low for the pandemic.
There were 12.57 million individuals nationwide with an active claim as of July 3. About 3.3 million workers drew state benefits and 10.27 million received federal benefits.
Mark Hamrick, chief economist analyst for Bankrate.com, said Thursday that “with the recent resurgence in COVID cases stemming from the delta variant, the jump in jobless claims is a disappointment.” “Recovery is never a perfect straight line.
“The total number of individuals on some form of unemployment assistance remains historically elevated at nearly 12.6 million.
“But that total should decline sharply in a couple of months as the federal pandemic programs expire,” Hamrick said.
Expiring federal benefits
According to nonpartisan think tank The Century Foundation, 25 states with Republican governors have chosen to end their participation in the $300 weekly federal UI benefit from June 12 through July 10.
Those include Georgia and South Carolina on June 26 and Tennessee on July 3.
Louisiana’s Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards agreed to end the state’s participation on Aug. 3 in exchange for raising the state’s maximum weekly UI payment by $28 to $275.
On June 23, the N.C. General Assembly approved a Republican-sponsored bill compromise that requires the state to withdraw early from the federal programs.
On July 2, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed SB116. The bill was placed July 6 in the Senate Rules and Operations committee, where it has not been addressed since.
The state Senate voted 25-22 along party lines to approve the compromise. The state House voted 65-45 with three Democrats in support.
At full attendance, at least 72 votes are needed to override a veto in the House, while 30 is needed in the Senate.
Senate Bill 116 would bar the N.C. Division of Employment Security from authorizing or administering the $300 federal UI payments. The legislation would not go into effect until 30 days after it becomes law.
The SB116 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.
Cooper said he vetoed the bill in part because the programs are set to last just eight more weeks, and in part because the state has “among the stingiest (state unemployment benefits) in the country.”