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Weekly initial unemployment claims increase in N.C. for first time since early April
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Weekly initial unemployment claims increase in N.C. for first time since early April

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North Carolina had last week its first weekly increase in initial unemployment-insurance benefit claims since early April, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday.

North Carolina had 5,083 claims for the week that ended July 10, compared with a revised 4,879 the previous week.

The state was 23rd in the nation in the number of unemployment filings, up two spots 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 $2.73 billion in benefits to North Carolinians.

U.S. Labor listed North Carolina with 134,523 PEUC recipients as of June 26, as well as 1,498 PUA participants as of July 3 and 61,064 continuing claims as of June 26.

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North Carolina is at $12.57 billion in initial state and federal UI benefit payments for the pandemic.

Of that amount, regular state benefits are at $1.98 billion, while federal and state extended benefits are at $10.55 billion.

By far the biggest factor in UI benefit payments is the federal pandemic unemployment compensation (FPUC) program at $6.89 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 $2.01 billion in benefits to North Carolinians.

Nationally

The national unemployment insurance claims outlook dropped by 26,000 to a pandemic low 360,000 for the week that ended July 10.

There were 13.84 million individuals nationwide with an active claim as of June 26. About 3.45 million workers drew state benefits and 10.39 million received federal benefits.

Mark Hamrick, chief economist analyst for Bankrate.com, said that “we’re continuing to see and welcome further healing in the job market.”

“The reopening of the economy has created remarkable demand for workers across a wide variety of categories.

“Another reopening strain, the question of inflation and whether it persists, is essentially the top economic issue of the moment.”

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 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.”

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@rcraverWSJ

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