Local News

N.C. unemployment at all-time high

Posted March 27, 2009 10:25 a.m. EDT
Updated March 27, 2009 4:53 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina’s unemployment rate increased a full percentage point in February, moving to 10.7 percent from 9.7 percent in January, the state Employment Security Commission reported Friday.

The jobless rate, which has increased for 13 straight months, is at its highest point since the state started keeping seasonally adjusted data, officials said. The statewide unemployment rate in February 2008 was 5.2 percent.

North Carolina is one of seven states with double-digit unemployment. Michigan tops the list at 12 percent, followed by South Carolina.

"(It's) not a big surprise," said Larry Parker, spokesman for the North Carolina Employment Security Commission. "We know the number of layoffs that are happening across the state. We know they're affecting the numbers. We know that manufacturing and construction continue to take a hit month after month."

The previous state record for unemployment was 10.2 percent, which occurred during the 1983 recession. During the dot-com bust of 2001-02, the state jobless rate was about 7 percent.

Most job sectors have seen increases in unemployment in recent months, Parker said.

The manufacturing sector posted the biggest jump in unemployment last month, with 14,900 jobs lost, while educational and health services showed the largest employment gains, adding 6,200 jobs, according to the ESC.

"It's very difficult right now. There's not that many jobs out there to be had," Parker said.

Electrician James Delk said he lost his job in September and now spends a lot of time at the Raleigh ESC office.

"This is the longest I've been out of work in a very long time," Delk said. "Believe it or not, (coming to the ESC office) gives me something to do for the day. (For) a lot of these jobs, you cannot walk into their office and put in an application. They'd rather you do it online or fax a resume."

Beginning next month, the ESC will begin adding $25 to weekly unemployment checks as part of the federal economic stimulus package, officials said. The extra money will be retroactively paid to the week ending Feb. 28, officials said.

The state paid out $212 million in unemployment benefits in February and has started borrowing money from the federal government to cover benefits payments.

The average person receives benefits for 13 weeks, according to the ESC. The average weekly check is $290, up $13 a week from last year.

Seasonally adjusted employment decreased in February by 17,728 workers, to 4,093,625. Unemployment increased by 51,902 workers, to 491,067.

The number of unemployed workers actively seeking work remains at an all-time high. Unemployment has increased by 253,850 people since February 2008, while employment is down by 194,477 workers.

Gov. Beverly Perdue said she hopes provisions in her $21 billion budget proposal to retrain workers will help turn things around.

"We all are just hopeful the bleeding will stop soon," Perdue said. "This is hard news for North Carolina, hard news for the country. We just all hope that sunshine begins soon."