The new state labor market data will come out tomorrow. Ahead of that and in light of the current discussion of unemployment insurance in the General Assembly, it seemed a good time to revisit the state of the labor market for jobless workers and the effectiveness of unemployment insurance in providing workers with the support they need while looking for work and in buttressing the economy.
Prosperity Watch this week looked at data available from the North Carolina Department of Commerce that shows at the county level the ratio of jobless workers to job openings. More than two-thirds of the state’s counties still have more jobless workers than job openings. Even if all the job openings in those 83 counties were filled, there would still be workers looking for work.
Even while North Carolina has cut the number of weeks that workers can claim unemployment insurance, a lack of job openings means that a lot of people are spending prolonged periods out of work.. Despite the official recovery, one out of three jobless workers has been out of work for 26 weeks or more. The long-term unemployed face a host of additional barriers to employment including discrimination in the application process, lapse in skills for the work place and mounting debt that may make transportation or housing difficult to sustain.
Unemployment insurance was designed to prevent just this kind of vicious cycle. The system is meant to ensure that workers who lost their jobs through no fault of their own—like because of a business downturn—can meet their basic needs while they look for work and thus not withdraw completely from participating in economic life as consumers, renters or homeowners. Today however, the system is not meeting that goal:
- The state has a 15% recipiency rate, measuring the number of jobless workers who receive unemployment insurance, for the first quarter of 2015 which ranks us 47th in the country.
- The state has an average weekly benefit amount of $231.30 which ranks us 47th in the country.
- The average duration that a jobless worker receives unemployment insurance is 12.9 weeks which ranks us 45th in the country.