While North Carolina’s unemployment rate dropped from 9.4 percent to 9.2 percent last month, the state continues to have the fifth highest unemployment rate in the country. The rate has hovered above 9 percent for the last four years, and North Carolina has lagged behind the slow national economic recovery since the end of the recession. Labor market trends show that North Carolina’s unemployment trajectory is due in large part to the great number of jobs lost during the Great Recession. Between December 2007 and May 2010, North Carolina lost almost 10 percent of its pre-recession employment. There simply are not enough jobs for North Carolina’s job seekers.
The passage of HB 4 in February 2013 was another blow to North Carolina’s jobless workers. The bill slashed the maximum benefit by approximately $185 per week, regardless of wage growth, cost of living, or inflation. The bill also cut the maximum number of weeks of benefits to a sliding scale of 12 to 20 weeks, despite the fact that more than 37 percent of unemployment insurance recipients in the state exhaust their benefits after 26 weeks without finding a job. And the bill cuts off federally funded extended benefits for more than 100,000 North Carolina workers on July 1, 2013 according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
What can be done? Four bills currently before the NC General Assembly could help those who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own.