RALEIGH (October 1, 2020) – This morning the U.S. Department of Labor released the latest weekly data on Unemployment Insurance claims, showing that jobless workers continued to make claims in North Carolina at elevated levels. Initial claims for the week of September 26, 2020, numbered 11,899, slightly down from the week before but higher than the prior year.

“Joblessness is widespread across North Carolina, and the loss of federal boosts to Unemployment Insurance is worsening the economic harm to communities,” said Bill Rowe, Deputy Director of Advocacy at the NC Justice Center. “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 show there are widespread job losses and hardship. Nearly 1.3 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 12,000 claims received as of September 28th.

“Most of North Carolina’s metropolitan areas have lost more than 10 percent of their jobs since February, but the recovery is particularly slow in some cities like Greenville and Goldsboro, which had the hardest time bouncing back from the Great Recession,” said Patrick McHugh, Research Manager with the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center.

In light of the data showing persistent joblessness in communities throughout North Carolina and the U.S., more than 45 groups from across the state sent a joint letter this week to Senator Thom Tillis and Senator Richard Burr, asking for the leaders to move a comprehensive response to COVID-19 that provides direct aid to families as well as to state and local governments to sustain the response to the current public health and economic crisis.

“Just this week we learned that more than 780,000 adults in our state aren’t getting enough food because they can’t afford it,” the letter reads. “More than 1 million North Carolinians are at risk of eviction and 1.4 million are behind on utility payments as the season changes. Jobless workers have lost the boost from federal Unemployment Insurance, dampening spending in communities across the state and putting families at risk of being pushed deeper into poverty.”

The letter calls on Senators Tillis and Burr to pass a federal package that reestablishes the $600 a week UI boost; expands eligibility for stimulus payments and ensures an immigrant-inclusive response; boosts food assistance (SNAP) benefits; provides funding for rental and utility assistance; establishes stronger workplace protections; expands access to paid leave and paid sick days; and increases the federal share of Medicaid costs in states.

“North Carolina families will continue to feel hardship due to delayed and inadequate federal action to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Suzy Khachaturyan, Policy Analyst with the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center. “Assisting children, workers, and families to make ends meet through direct relief via existing programs will be essential for helping people on the road to economic recovery. In addition, state and local governments urgently need support to continue providing core public services on top of the additional demands on our public institutions as a result of the crisis.”