Local News

ESC counselors deal with hopes, fears of unemployed

Posted February 20, 2009 5:19 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:13 p.m. EDT

— Record unemployment means longer lines at state Employment Security Commission offices and more stress for unemployment counselors filing their claims.

Nearly 397,000 North Carolina residents were unemployed in December, the latest statistics available, which marks an all-time high in the number of people in the state looking for work. The 8.7 percent unemployment rate is the highest in more than 25 years.

"We do get people who shed some tears," said Jay Brown, a counselor in the ESC's Fayetteville office. "It's a traumatic shock to lose (a job) at the last minute, so we let them vent, cry, give them a tissue, whatever."

Counselors in the Fayetteville office see 42 people a day – 210 unemployed people each week seeking help – as well as others who walk without appointments. Almost 720 people have filed for unemployment in Fayetteville so far this month, compared with 468 claims last February.

Edith Arterberry is one of the people putting their hope in Brown and the ESC. After 32 years on the job, she now works every other week through a "rotating layoff."

"I never thought it would come to this where I'd be coming in here," Arterberry said.

Brown said that, after eight years with the ESC, he's learned how to handle the pressure of addressing people's hopes and fears.

"It's pretty touching. It weighs a little bit on your heart to deal with it every day," he said.