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N.C. unemployment claims decline. National total continues to rise.

N.C. unemployment claims decline. National total continues to rise.

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Initial unemployment-insurance benefit claims in North Carolina declined last week, while the national total rose for the second consecutive week, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday.

North Carolina experienced a 10.5% decrease, to 26,141, for the week that ended July 25. For the week ending July 18, the revised claim total was 29,204.

Nationwide, there were 1.43 million initial claims filed last week, compared with the revised figure of 1.42 million for the week that ended July 11. Claims have surpassed the 1 million mark for 19 consecutive weeks.

The national peak to date was the 6.87 million claims filed the week that ended March 28.

The nationwide total of UI claims filed since March 15 is 52.6 million, although that number could be affected by individuals filing multiple claims if they had multiple jobs. There were 30.2 million individuals with an active claim as of July 11.

North Carolina again had the 12th highest UI claim filings in the nation last week. The state’s highest weekly total for UI claims related to the COVID-19 pandemic is 172,745 for the week that ended March 28.

The Labor Department’s Employment and Training Administration said the seasonally adjusted U.S. unemployment rate was 11.6% for the week ending July 18, up from a revised 11.2% for the previous week.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. jobless rates were 4.4% in March, 14.7% in April, 13.3% in May and 11.1% in June.

North Carolina’s unemployment rate nearly tripled from 4.3% in March to 12.2% in April and 12.9% in May before dropping stunningly to 7.6% in June. Individuals without jobs and not actively looking for work are not counted as part of the labor force.

“The virus spread and economic rollbacks in (recent) weeks do not bode well for the labor market in the weeks and months ahead,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate.com.

“The looming expiration of federal unemployment benefits without a clear-cut replacement threatens a chunk of consumer spending power that has sustained households and made its way back into the economy.”

N.C. updates

Economists caution that the state and Triad jobless rates are likely to rise again in July as some businesses that reopened in May and June may have furloughed or laid off employees again because of lack of consumer demand.

North Carolina altogether has received $6.62 billion paid in state and federal UI benefits between March 15 and 9:30 a.m. Thursday, primarily coming from the weekly $600 supplement.

However, that federal supplement will shrink drastically once claimants’ final $600 weekly payment is received this week.

The state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund was at close to $3.85 billion before the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic began. Since then, $1.54 billion has been paid out, 40% of the fund’s total.

The remaining UI payment breakdown is $4.55 billion from the federal pandemic unemployment-compensation package; $326.8 million in the federal pandemic unemployment-assistance package; $200.3 million in pandemic-emergency unemployment compensation, and $3.2 million in special extended benefits.

That means that 76.8% of UI payments to North Carolinians are coming from federal sources, mostly the $600 weekly benefit.

The $3 trillion federal CARES Act stimulus package, passed in late April, extends state benefits by up to 13 weeks for most claimants once they exhaust their initial 12 weeks of regular state benefits.

Even though the 13 weeks are paid by the federal government, the weekly amount adheres to state benefit guidelines of a $350 maximum. The extension is not automatic. According to the U.S. Labor Department, claimants “need to apply for them” at each extended benefit step, which could delay payments. There have been 1.2 million claimants representing 2.05 million claims.

Some individuals have been required to file a second claim — after being determined to be ineligible for initial state benefits — in order to qualify for federal benefits that often include extended state benefits.

Currently, 28.4% of the 4.23 million North Carolinians considered in the state’s workforce as of mid-June have filed a state or federal unemployment claim.

rcraver@wsjournal.com

336-727-7376

@rcraverWSJ

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