The North Carolina Senate voted unanimously Monday (June 14th) to keep receiving money from a federal unemployment program that provides North Carolinians who are unemployed an extra $300 per week in addition to what they are getting from the state. The state maximum is $235, but with the extra federal money, the unemployed can get $535--which is more than some jobs pay. The Senate voted 47-0 to reject House Bill 116.
The House bill, as originally written by Lincoln County Rep. Jason Saine, would have expanded allowed attendance at outdoor high school sports events. In that form, it had been passed by the Senate in March. Of course, Gov. Roy Cooper did away with the restrictions on attendance at the sports events later. Saine then updated his bill, adding language that would bar the North Carolina Unemployment Security Division from authorizing the extra $300 in unemployment benefits.
Many believe that the extra unemployment money is a significant reason why some people are remaining unemployed rather than filling available jobs. Earlier this month, the House approved the bill 71-36 despite a promise from Gov. Cooper that if it was passed, he would veto the bill, making an override necessary for it to become law.
The issue isn't necessarily settled. A joint committee will now try to reach a compromise on language for the bill. House Speaker Tim Moore of Cleveland County, commented: "If we want to get our economy back on track, we cannot continue punishing businesses in the name of helping individuals."
While the extra unemployment benefit may be a factor, it is not the only factor that is creating a labor shortage. Perhaps more important is the unemployment rate, which is now back to about the same as it was pre-pandemic.
Lincoln County's unemployment rate in April (the latest month for which local rates are available) 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.
New unemployment claims increased slightly week-over-week the first week of June, but were still 93% below the peak during the COVID-19 pandemic. The personal finance website WalletHub released updated rankings this week for the states whose unemployment claims are recovering the quickest.
For the first week of June, North Carolina ranked 12th in recovery, but since the start of the COVID crisis, North Carolina ranked 5th.