Unemployment surpasses records


COVID-19 continued its assault on the unemployment record books as jobless numbers soared to unprecedented levels.

More than six million Americans filed for unemployment in the week ending on March 28, according to the Department of Labor, obliterating the previously short-lived record of 3.3 million set just seven days ago. Thursday’s announcement raised the total number of people who filed for unemployment in the past two weeks to 10 million.

Congress passed a $2.2 trillion stimulus package on March 25 to help displaced workers left unemployed by rampant business closures across the country.

“Similar to last week’s unemployment claims numbers, today’s report reflects the sacrifices American workers are making for their families, neighbors, and country in order to ‘slow the spread,’” Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia said. “The administration continues to act quickly to address this impact on American workers. That includes a rule the Labor Department adopted yesterday to implement the paid leave provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, and the department’s work with the states to make available the enhanced unemployment benefits provided in the CARES Act, which the president signed last week.

That legislation also contains significant incentives for businesses to retain workers and continue paying them, which will put businesses and workers in a better position to resume work and re-boot the economy once the virus is contained.”

North Carolina Department of Commerce Division of Employment Security reported 353,480 unemployment claims between March 16 and April 1,with 308,814 being COVID-19 related. More than 20,000 workers filed for unemployment benefits on April 1 alone.

“We continue to see unprecedented amounts of claims being filed,” said Larry Parker, DES public information officer. “We are hiring more staff. Some new employees began this week, and we will continue to add more throughout the week. We hired a private call center to assist in taking calls. Current employees are being cross trained to assist in areas of need.”

Unemployment numbers two weeks ago shattered the previous record of 650,000 weekly claims in U.S. history. The new numbers — 6.6 million — nearly doubled that mark.

The new stimulus package included an extra 13 weeks of unemployments benefits, an additional $600 per week on top of regular benefits and avenues for workers not eligible for regular benefits to receive unemployment insurance. Parker said DES currently is receiving guidance from the Department of Labor on how to implement the programs and benefits would be paid retroactively to the week ending on April 4.

North Carolina built up an estimated $3.8 billion unemployment benefits fund since the last national recession.

Eliot Duke can be reached at eduke@mydailyrecord.com or 910-230-2038.


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