State workers contribute to surge in jobless

Posted August 19, 2011 8:21 a.m. EDT
Updated August 19, 2011 7:56 p.m. EDT

— With North Carolina’s unemployment rate hovering around the 10 percent mark, the Raleigh Employment Security Commission office stays busy. More people are out of work in North Carolina – 10.1 percent – than that national average, which is a full point lower.

A large chunk of those folks are former state employees who lost their jobs to government belt-tightening. More than 11,000 public sector jobs have been cut in recent months, according to the ESC.

While thousands lost their jobs when the state budget passed July 1, many agencies have been letting jobs go unfilled for months in anticipation of the cuts, said Margaret Jordan with the Office of State Personnel.

"Not only are state employees losing their jobs due to a reduction in force, but those jobs are no longer available because of the budget cuts," she said.

Public sector jobs have a reputation for security. In the past, when state workers were cut from one place, they would have priority if they applied for another state job. Now, there are so many people out of work that the state opened an Employees Career Transition Center to help laid-off workers find non-government jobs.

Jordan said the state offers resume services and helps the jobless set up interviews.

Jobless rate at annual high 

The last time the rate was in double digits was 10 percent last September. The jobless rate last July was 10.3 percent.

The private sector did add 6,900 jobs in July, the ESC said. Leading the way were professional and business services (+ 3,600), trade, transportation and utilities (+1,900) and manufacturing (+1,300).

However, the financial services sector shed 1,500 jobs.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits increased by 4,250 from June to 60,223. Of that total, 46 percent expect to be recalled to work.

Unemployment benefits were paid to 113,993, up 5,639 from June.

Gov. Bev Perdue issued a statement Friday blaming the rising unemployment rate on the budget enacted by the Republican-led state legislature. 

“The severe cuts to education, including teacher positions, inflicted by the Republican legislature are taking their toll on our classrooms and our workforce," she said. "Thousands of education jobs have been cut, and these lost jobs are a major factor in pushing up the unemployment rate."