RALEIGH (April 2, 2020) – The release of national weekly unemployment insurance (UI) claims data shows that initial claims increased by 3,000 percent in three weeks, from 211,000 in the week ending March 7th to 6.6 million in the week ending March 28th.

“What the labor market is currently experiencing is far more extreme than anything we’ve ever seen, including the worst weeks of the Great Recession,” said economist Heidi Shierholz from the Economic Policy Institute in a press statement today. “It’s worth noting that UI claims do not include many workers who are out of work due to the virus, including independent contractors, those who don’t have long enough work histories, those who had to quit work to care for a child whose school closed, and more, so the actual number of people out of work is higher than today’s’ data show us.”

North Carolina’s data on initial claims, released by the US Department of Labor today, is reported for the prior week of March 21st, and therefore is only beginning to show the spike in job losses. Projections of advance claims reported suggest that the week of March 28th saw 170,881 weekly claims for UI across the state.

Data from the Division of Employment Security released daily and available here show that North Carolina’s jobless claims have topped 350,000 since March 16th.

Patrick McHugh, Senior Economic Analyst, Budget & Tax Center
“Unemployment claims are just a leading indicator of how the COVID-19 outbreak is revealing the weaknesses in our economy. A decade of meager job and wage growth has left too many families with nothing to fall back on when a crisis hits and our entire economy with little cushion to cope with this kind of shock. Policymakers better move fast to help workers who are already losing income, support families in need, and plan for long-term stimulus or the COVID-19 pandemic will pitch us into a long recession.”

MaryBe McMillan, President, North Carolina State AFL-CIO
“When workers lose wages and jobs as is happening with measures required to contain the coronavirus, it is critical that our Unemployment Insurance quickly and effectively provide support. When working people have the dollars they need to make ends meet and don’t get pushed into poverty, they and our economy can thrive. It’s time to focus on workers.”

Bill Rowe, Deputy Director of Advocacy at the North Carolina Justice Center
“Our state is facing an unprecedented public health crisis that has put hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians out of work. The benefits that the state’s Unemployment Insurance program provides workers is among the stingiest in the United States. Changes are needed—and support for the agency to administer the program under significant strain—so North Carolina can effectively send support to those people feeling the impact now and in the future.”