Local News

Silver lining in unemployment cloud: Extended benefits

Posted October 9, 2008 6:50 p.m. EDT
Updated October 9, 2008 9:17 p.m. EDT

— Higher unemployment numbers in North Carolina have triggered additional benefits for the state's jobless.

The state's jobless rate was 6.9 percent in August, up more than 2 percentage points in the past year. It's the highest rate since 2002.

Because the rate has topped 6.5 percent for three months, people whose six months of benefits are expiring could be eligible for extended benefits.

"It's been a very busy time," said David Clegg, deputy chairman of the state Employment Security Commission. "Because of the unprecedented nature of what's going on, we have folks working seven days a week."

Clegg says nearly 300,000 North Carolinians are receiving unemployment benefits, up about 20,000 from a year ago.

Lindsey Mullins is among the newest people on the unemployment rolls.

"We've been job-hunting for seven months. This was the last resort," Mullins said. "It's been real hard on our family, not being able to take the boys to lunch, to have to feed them in the back of the car and stuff."

The Raleigh unemployment office saw about 8,000 people a month at the beginning of the year, and that number has grown to about 14,000 a month.

Clegg said the ESC's phone lines will likely be clogged by people seeking extended benefits, but he urged people to be patient.

"Don't hang up. Stay on that line," he said. "Things will be fine. Everything works out. It's just hard. We do the best that we can to make sure they have everything that they need."