MEDIA RELEASE: State unemployment rate soars to historic highs

The first spike in unemployment in months showcases the need for aid to North Carolina's working families

RALEIGH (Jan. 22, 2010) -- North Carolina's unemployment rate soared to 11.2 percent in December, surpassing the previous historic high of 11 percent, according to numbers released today. This highlights the need for further state fiscal relief and extension of benefits for jobless North Carolinians, experts say.

The December unemployment rate surpassed the previous historic high of 11 percent, reached in May 2009. The new rate is .5 percentage points higher than the 10.7 percent unemployment one month prior in November 2009.

"For the first time in months, we've seen a significant increase in joblessness," said Elaine Mejia, director of the NC Justice Center's Budget & Tax Center. "The pain associated with this for North Carolina's working families must not be underestimated." Since the start of recession in December 2007, North Carolina has lost 248,000 total non-farm jobs, and 95,500 jobs in manufacturing employment alone.

Just one year ago, in December 2008, the NC unemployment rate was 8.1 percent - 3.1 percent lower than this December's rate.

The pain is shared across the country. Forty-three states and the District of Columbia recorded over-the-month unemployment rate increases in December, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The national unemployment rate was unchanged in December at 10 percent but was 2.6 percentage points higher than a year earlier.

The additional weeks of benefits and other assistance for unemployed workers in the recovery legislation that policymakers enacted early last year -- and recently extended through February -- have helped relieve hardship among the long-term unemployed while also boosting economic activity and job creation, Mejia said. But lawmakers must do more.

"State fiscal relief helps to maintain vital public services and reduce layoffs of teachers, firefighters, and police officers," said Mejia. "It also consistently ranks very high in economists' assessments of 'bang-for-the-buck' impact in boosting demand and creating jobs. Assistance for unemployed workers and state fiscal relief should be at the top of the list as Congress decides what measures to include in a new jobs package."

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Elaine Mejia, elaine@ncjustice.org; (919) 856-2176; Jeff Shaw, jeff@ncjustice.org, 503.551.3615.

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