RALEIGH — According to the April unemployment figures released by the N.C. Department of Commerce, unemployment rose in all 100 counties with 77 seeing unemployment rates over 10%. In March, only one county had a rate over 10%.
In April, 23 counties had unemployment rates between 5% and 10% compared to 28 counties in March.
Dare County’s unemployment rate of 24.5% was the highest in the state and Bertie County had the lowest at 6.4%. The April not seasonally adjusted statewide rate was 12.5%.
Every single one of the state’s 15 metro areas experienced rate increases. The highest was Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton at 17.6% and Durham-Chapel Hill and Greenville tied for the lowest rate at 9.5%.
According to the April report, the number of workers employed statewide (not seasonally adjusted) dropped to 4,090,238, which is a decrease of 676,373. The number of unemployed rose sharply to 585,304, representing an increase of 372,497. The report also said that when compared to April 2019, the number of workers employed statewide decreased 781,342, while those unemployed increased 406,392.
Since March 15, there have been over 1.4 million unemployment claims filed with the state. April 23rd saw the largest spike in claims with 54,495. Over $3.24 billion has been paid out, including over $1.7 billion in federal pandemic funds.
Gov. Roy Cooper has seen increased criticism over the slow processing of unemployment insurance claims since issuing his March executive orders that initially shuttered businesses across the state. Accompanying that order were several line items that loosened rules on filing for unemployment which arguably opened the floodgates and between March 16 and April 6 as 445,101 unemployment claims were filed. The Division of Employment Security (DES) was quickly overwhelmed due to lack of staff, outdated systems and a track record for slow payouts. As reported by the Carolina Journal, DES ranked last for the calendar year 2019 with a score of 58.1%, significantly under the national average of 85.5%.
Under Cooper’s phase two reopening plan, many industries and businesses are expected to remain until at least June 26.
By early May, 36 million nationally had filed claims and North Carolina passed a grim milestone with unemployment claims passing one million. At that time, fewer than 45% of claims in North Carolina had begun the process of being paid out. Flooded with calls from constituents with claim issues, the General Assembly held a hearing on May 18 and asked the public to send them their unemployment stories.
With pressure mounting, Cooper replaced Lockhart Taylor, the head of the state unemployment benefits office, on May 27 with former legislator Pryor Gibson. The agency has continued to struggle to address the unprecedented number of pandemic-related job loss claims.
June 3 unemployment claim data from DES: