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Unemployment Climbs Again

Unemployment in North Carolina rose for the ninth consecutive month in September, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Seven percent of the state’s workforce now is unemployed – a level of joblessness seen on only one other occasion since 1990.

Unemployment in North Carolina has reached recessionary levels. The September unemployment rate of seven percent is tied for the highest monthly rate recorded since 1990. It is higher than any monthly rate posted during the 1990-91 recession or the official part of the 2001 recession. And the situation likely will worsen in the coming months.

Deteriorating labor market conditions led Congress to pass an Emergency Unemployment Compensation program in June. This program allows unemployed workers to draw an additional 13 weeks of insurance. Given the labor market’s turn for the worse, however, sizable numbers of workers are exhausting their emergency benefits yet remain jobless. In fact, an estimated 30,000 North Carolina workers will exhaust their emergency benefits this month, and another 13,000 will do so by year’s end.

In response, the U.S House of Representatives recently passed an extension of the emergency unemployment program that would provide seven more weeks of insurance to all workers and an additional 13 weeks for workers in high unemployment states like North Carolina. The U.S. Senate will need to act on the legislation during its November session.

An extension of emergency benefits is a critical tool for preventing the downturn from worsening. Not only will the payments help jobless workers, but they also will have an expansionary effect on local economies. For those reasons, Senators Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr should work to ensure that the emergency program is extended.

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