As of last week, approximately 17,000 jobless workers in North Carolina were cut off from unemployment benefits. Payments under the federal Extended Benefits (EB) program were terminated in eight states, including North Carolina, due to a small decline in the state’s unemployment rate that disqualifies the state from additional weeks of UI benefits. In these eight states, over 200,000 long-term unemployed workers lost their benefits on Sunday.
A decrease in the unemployment rate should be good news. Indeed, North Carolina’s unemployment rate fell to 9.7 percent in March, the lowest it had been in over three years. But it’s important to remember that the unemployment rate is still at a record high, almost twice as high as it was in 2007 before the Great Recession. And North Carolina is still not creating enough jobs to replace those lost in the recession and to keep up with population growth. The jobs deficit – the number of jobs the state needs to create in order to catch with these employment levels – stands at over 500,000.
This means that there simply are not enough jobs for job seekers. And the 17,000 long-term unemployed who have now lost their benefits face a grim reality in which there are four unemployed workers for every job opening.
Unemployment benefits don’t replace earnings from a job. In fact, the average UI benefit of $290 does not even allow a family of three to meet all basic expenses. But these benefits are a modest support that allow many North Carolinian families to put food on their tables and pay their bills while they are looking for work. This week, there are 17,000 workers out of a job and without the benefits necessary to make ends meet.