MEDIA RELEASE: New joblessness numbers: North Carolina has more than 500,000 workers actively seeking employment

Analyst: Federal and state lawmakers must maintain public investments, which boost the economy and support workers

RALEIGH (March 10, 2009) - More than one-half million North Carolina workers are unemployed and actively seeking work, according to data released today.

According to numbers from the state's Employment Security Commission today, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for North Carolina climbed to 11.1% in January. The previous rate had been 10.9 percent in December. The new figures show that 502,533 able-bodied, unemployed workers actively seeking employment in North Carolina can't find a job.

"With unemployment at such a high level, it is now more important than ever to maintain our critical public investments," said Elaine Mejia, director of the NC Justice Center's Budget & Tax Center. "Working families need support to weather the storm."

The state economy actually saw 8,000 new jobs created in January - but the work force grew by 15,000 workers, meaning the number of unemployed workers actively seeking work crested one-half million.

State public investment programs, said Mejia, promote economic growth by preserving jobs as well as providing essential support for vulnerable populations in North Carolina. Though budgetary challenges loom in the coming session, legislators should keep this in mind.

"We're seeing enrollment growth in both Medicaid and the community college system," said Mejia. "This is likely to continue, since working families need these programs more than ever in an economic crisis. Gov. Perdue and state lawmakers should find a way to preserve these vital programs that help everyday North Carolinians, while building the foundation for economic recovery.

On a federal level, legislators must quickly move to create meaningful state fiscal relief and extend unemployment benefits for out-of-work Tar Heels, Mejia said.

"The numbers send a clear message that inaction will only deepen our economic crisis," said Mejia. "To create jobs and boost the economy, state governments like North Carolina's need federal fiscal relief."

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Elaine Mejia, 919.856.2176; Jeff Shaw, Director of Communications, 919.863.2402 (office), 503.551.3615 (mobile).

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