NC Budget and Tax Center

Jobless workers and their communities still hurting under unemployment insurance changes

The Unemployment Insurance Oversight Committee is set to meet on Wednesday to discuss the state’s unemployment insurance system.  It is unclear what will be discussed as of today but let’s hope North Carolina’s leaders spend time considering just how poorly the system is working for jobless workers and their communities.

The latest available data from the US Department of Labor provides benchmarks on key standards that the system should meet in providing a temporary, partial wage replacement to those who lose their job through no fault of their own.  The goal of the program is to stabilize these jobless workers spending in the broader economy while they look for new work and ensure that busiensses aren’t hit by the impacts of low demand for their goods and services.

Here are the lowlights for North Carolina’s system:

  • Just one in 10 jobless workers received unemployment insurance in the Second Quarter of 2016, ranking North Carolina last in the country. Prior to changes North Carolina ranked 24th.
  • The average duration of unemployment insurance is just 10 weeks, ranking North Carolina last in the country. Prior to changes North Carolina ranked 31st.
  • The average weekly benefit amount of $241 leaves jobless workers with too little wage replacement to keep up with the basic costs of living and ranks North Carolina 46th in the country. Prior to changes North Carolina ranked 25th.

North Carolina’s unemployment insurance now reaches too few jobless workers for too short a time period and provides too little in payments to stabilize their spending in the economy. In communities facing persistently high joblessness and too few job openings as well as though facing mass layoffs. The failings of today’s unemployment insurance are all too real and the reach of its harm extend beyond those immediately affected to all of us.

Let’s hope these issues get discussed by leaders on Wednesday. Policymakers should choose to fix the state’s unemployment insurance so that it works for jobless workers and communities.

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