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Lunch links: Jobless in the mountains and more

For Lunch Links today, here’s a few things that have caught my attention. Fair warning, there’s a bit of doom and gloom in here.

The News & Observer had this article about one of the effects of the declining unemployment rate and last year’s changes to North Carolina’s unemployment benefits – those without jobs could see a reduction in how they can collect unemployment. It could push the maximum for benefits down to  14 weeks when the length of benefits is recalibrated in July.

From the article:

The maximum number of weeks that North Carolina’s jobless can receive unemployment checks is expected to decline significantly again in July because state law ties the benefits to the state’s declining unemployment rate.

The prospect of four or five fewer weeks of unemployment checks for workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own is bemoaned by advocates for the poor. They argue that the job market remains quite challenging.

“The fact that we are seeing a decline in the unemployment rate is really masking the persistent and high joblessness in our state,” said Alexandra Forter Sirota, director of the Budget & Tax Center at the N.C. Justice Center, an advocacy group for the poor and working class. “Many workers do not have employment opportunities despite wanting to work.”

(Disclosure: The Budget and Tax Center that Sirota leads is, like Policy Watch, are part of the N.C. Justice Center, a statewide anti-poverty group)

The declining length of unemployment benefits  certainly won’t be welcome news on the western edge of the state in Graham County, where the rural mountain county’s biggest employer announced last week it is planning on shutting down a furniture plant that employed 400 people.

Carolina’s Public Press, a non-profit news organization that concentrates on Western North Carolina, had this story about the potentially devastating effect this could have in a county already contending with unemployment rates of 13 to 14 percent.

“I think it’s going to be bad,” 80-year-old retired postal worker J.C. Payne told the news organization. “Outside of that, we have no industry left. When 400 (lose jobs) in a county that does not have a big population, that’s a big chunk.”

Today’s release of county labor force figures (click here to see the non-seasonably adjusted numbers) show that 13.8 percent of residents in Graham County were looking for work, more than any other county and more than twice the state’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate of 6.4 percent.

I’ll end with some sad news, though news without any obvious North Carolina connections.

The Associated Press is reporting this morning that Lacey Holsworth, the 8-year-old friend of Michigan State basketball player Adreian Payne has died.

The player and young cancer patient struck up a friendship when Michigan State’s basketball team visited a pediatric ward several years ago. The Detroit Free Press has a number of videos up about the unlikely friendship, including this touching video.

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