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Laid off in N.C.? It could be worse

Posted December 19, 2008

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— The thousands of unemployed people statewide can at least be grateful that they were laid off in North Carolina and not in South Carolina.

The maximum payout from North Carolina's unemployment insurance is among the highest in the country and is at least $100 higher than surrounding states.

In North Carolina, the maximum weekly unemployment check is $494, compared with $378 in Virginia, $326 in South Carolina and $275 in Tennessee.

"The way we do it is truly economically based," said David Clegg, deputy chairman of the North Carolina Employment Security Commission.

The state bases the maximum payout on nearly 67 percent of the average weekly wage in North Carolina during a one-year period, compared with 50 percent in South Carolina. Clegg said industries like technology, financial services and higher education boost that weekly average in North Carolina.

"Those (industries) carry with them a very substantial wage, and so North Carolina wages are probably 10 to 15 percent higher than any other state in the Southeast," he said.

Another factor in the state's favor is that the ESC sets the rate of unemployment benefits. In most other states, lawmakers make that decision, which Clegg says "politicizes" the issue.

"(Unemployment benefits are) a safety net, so [workers] can go out and actively seek to reconnect themselves to the labor market," he said.

William Harris said he gets $301 a week in unemployment benefits as he searches for a new job.

"They're not as adequate as I'd like them to be, just enough to keep me afloat," Harris said.

But Tina Branch, who was laid off from her security job, said her $182 in weekly benefits is more than half of what she earned each week on the job and is better than nothing.

"It's OK. It helps out. It's better than what I did have" before the ESC checks started coming, Branch said.

North Carolina has about $300 million in reserve for jobless benefits and expects to collect up to $700 million in the first half of next year. Officials have said that North Carolina could run out of money to pay jobless benefits if layoffs increase, but they plan to tap a federal backup fund if that happens.

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  • hunt36 Dec 19, 2008

    I just got the old axe today. Thank GOD I have some money in savings I know everyone does not but it may not be their faultn they may not have been making enough money to save to start with I think it is unfair for people to fault them for not having savigs for unemployment everyone's situation is different

  • wcnc Dec 19, 2008

    kammy- Most people these days can get a plan other than COBRA that costs MUCH less..... Typical emergency fund is 3-6 months of expenses. If your spouse works, that money lasts longer. Allows to supplement if your new job pays less or you only get part time work. The problem lies in the fact that people live above their means and qualify for a mortgage based on two salaries..

  • kammy Dec 19, 2008

    A lot of these mistruths could be cleared up if some of you would actually google what you think you know BEFORE posting here. Yee gawds!

    People in this area can't get jobs in the old fallback - retail - let alone find something in their own fields. It also lasts a fairly short time in comparison to how long it is taking people to find jobs. Even with two year's salary stashed away, COBRA or other health insurance will eat through that pretty quickly especially if you have a family and actually are responsible enough to pay for it.

    I'm glad unemployment insurance is available to us if ever necessary. We've never had to use it but in addition to our savings, I'm glad it is there. I'm also glad it is there for many of you naysayers who seem to find great simplicity in situations that are more complex than you assume.

  • Trivr Dec 19, 2008

    Whatever happened to saving your own money in planning for a potential layoff?

  • Unbroken Dec 19, 2008

    "Great" news if you are unemployed? I personally would not find a maximum of $26,000 a year to be great news. Yes, fortunate to have a safety net if I were to lose my job... but I wouldn't consider it to be the lottery.

    I collected unemployment back in 1995. At the time, I do not think there were taxes taken out. HOWEVER, I got whacked but good on April 15th. Have to pay the piper sometime...

  • PaulRevere Dec 19, 2008

    Is that before or after taxes?

  • original intent Dec 19, 2008

    Or you could be a US Congressman,,,they just got A $4700 pay raise...now the average congress"person" make @ $167,000 per year
    and they wonder why the "people" are so angry?? I just ripped US Rep Etheridege a new one....Call me when the Revolution starts!

  • thayer00 Dec 19, 2008

    Gret news if your unemployed. Bad if you work. Wonder how much more could be in my paycheck each time if we paid less in payroll tax.

  • wcnc Dec 19, 2008

    If these people would've had an emergency fund, they wouldn't need unemployment.....

    Live within your means while you have a job, save money like crazy and layoffs won't be a bit of trouble to you. Oh, and don't qualify for a mortgage based on 2 incomes.....That's a mess waiting to happen!

  • are you kidding me Dec 19, 2008

    Oh great, unemployment is lucurative! Are you kidding me, right!

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