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High unemployment and loss of federal assistance continue to plague NC workers

This morning the U.S. Department of Labor released the latest weekly data on Unemployment Insurance claims, showing that jobless workers continued to make initial claims for UI in North Carolina at elevated levels. More than 13,000 initial claims were filed the week of September 12th, compared to 3,000 initial claims in the same week last year.

“Joblessness is widespread across North Carolina, and the loss of federal boosts to Unemployment Insurance is worsening the economic harm to people and communities,” said Bill Rowe, Deputy Director of Advocacy at the North Carolina Justice Center. “It is clear North Carolina is far from returning to prior employment levels and that UI must continue to be a federal and state priority in policymakers’ response to this economic downturn.”

The trends in UI in combination with recent labor market data released for North Carolina, as well as Household Pulse Survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau for the week of September 14th, show there are widespread job losses and hardship.

More than 1.2 million North Carolinians have filed UI claims since the start of the pandemic. Daily new claims tracked by the Division of Employment Security show there have been more than 6,000 claims received.

North Carolina’s number of renter households behind on rent increased by nearly 30,000 week over week, suggesting the loss of UI could continue to ripple throughout the state and put pressure on communities.

The number of adults reporting being unable to put food on the table in their households totaled more than 780,000.

National figures not only show the persistent joblessness that is plaguing communities across the U.S. but also that the country needs sustained federal action on UI until the recovery is underway.

The latest available data find that North Carolina is losing at least $356 million each week in household income, impacting spending and the broader local economy. Across the country, researchers point to problems with the Lost Wages Assistance program not meeting the need and running out of core funding too soon to sustain workers through the crisis.

“Federal action on Unemployment Insurance is critical to keeping jobless workers connected to the labor market and ensuring that families aren’t pushed deeper into poverty as a result of job losses from the pandemic,” said Alexandra Sirota, Director of Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center. “Taking action on unemployment now can make sure that people can pay rent and put food on the table, and will provide the foundation our economy needs to begin to recover. Absent this action, hardship will continue to ripple through communities.”

Julia Hawes is the Director of Communications for the NC Justice Center.

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