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Lincoln Herald | Lincolnton, NC

home : opinion : opinion June 18, 2021

6/3/2021 12:51:00 AM
Sometimes It Pays (Better) Not To Work

L. Wayne Howard
Staff Writer

It's simple math, really! The average state-funded unemployment check in NC is $216; the maximum check is $350. If you're unemployed and you take a job making $10/hour, you'll make $400 before taxes. With the additional $300 unemployment benefit from the federal government, that comes to more for not working than working. If you take a $15/hour job, the $650 for which you may qualify is still more than what you would make.

Employers small and large--from fast food restaurants to major industries--are having a tough time finding workers. Add to the unemployment money the $1400 stimulus check and it's easy to see why some are reluctant to take available jobs: they're managing without working and in some cases it would actually cost them to work.

25 states have now ended participation in the federal unemployment program that provides that extra $300 per week as a part of the Rescue Plan of 2021.

The problem isn't that jobs aren't available; it's that many of those available jobs aren't what some of the prospective workers are seeking. Some have degrees or training that has left them 'over-qualified' for what's available. Many are hoping to take jobs that will provide them the same or better income than they had pre-pandemic. Those 'good old days' may not be gone forever, but truthfully, it may be necessary for many to start climbing a different ladder than the one on which they had advanced a year or two ago.

The NC Dept. of Commerce released the latest county-by-county unemployment figures this week. Unemployment rates (not seasonally adjusted) decreased in 91 of North Carolina’s counties in April, increased in seven, and remained unchanged in two. Scotland County had the highest unemployment rate at 8.5 percent while Orange County had the lowest at 3.0 percent.

Lincoln County's unemployment rate in April was 3.7%, down from 3.9% in March. The rate also dropped in Catawba, Cleveland and Gaston counties. Catawba's rate was 4.3%; Gaston and Cleveland, 4.8%. The statewide rate (recently revised downward) was 4.4%, compared to 6.1% nationally.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper stopped short of what other governors have done when he issued his Executive Order 216 two weeks ago. He didn't pull the state out of the federal program that adds that extra $300 to weekly unemployment benefits. He did increase requirements the unemployed must meet to keep getting a check.

To continue receiving benefits, all unemployment claimants are now required to register a jobseeker account on, North Carolina’s online portal for employment and training services. Jobseekers can use to search and apply for jobs, access labor market information and find opportunities for workforce training. They will also be required to make contact with at least three different employers each week and keep a record of their work search. That's still less than the five required pre-pandemic.

While it may have been true previously, it's unlikely that many are now staying out of work because of fears of getting infected with the coronavirus. It's much more likely that they've done the math.

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