This morning the NC Employment Security Commission released state employment numbers for the month of August. The seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate was 10.8% in August, meaning that 488,974 North Carolina’s workers were unable to find jobs. Since the recession began in December 2007 North Carolina has shed 255,400 jobs. The latest unemployment rate represents a decrease of 0.1 percentage point from the previous month. This is in part due to the fact that 7,000 jobs were added (thanks primarily to expansion in local government employment) and to workers dropping out of the labor market entirely. The private sector continued to shed jobs, with manufacturing and construction eliminating the most jobs in the past year (73,500 and 38,200). At 10.8% North Carolina is tied with Ohio and Tennessee for the 9th highest rate of unemployment.
While it’s good news that the unemployment rate in the state has not increased in the past few months since it peaked at 11% in May, the current unemployment rate is still much higher than any time during the previous two recessions of early 1990′s and the early 2000′s. This many months after the beginning of the past two recessions the state unemployment rate was 6.4% and 6.5% respectively.
The extended unemployment benefits made possible by the federal recovery package earlier this year are set to expire in December by which time an estimated 32,171 North Carolinians will see their benefits expire. Keep in mind that only about 38% of jobless workers in North Carolina are eligible for unemployment benefits and that the average benefit payment is approximately $300 per week.
The National Employment Law Project and others are calling on Congress to extend benefits for an additional 10-20 weeks. Given that during this recession approximately half of unemployed workers cannot find jobs after six months of looking extending benefits once again may be a good idea – both for maintaining spending in local economies and keeping working families from falling into poverty.