North Carolina's falling unemployment rate is not welcome news for everyone: Some 37,000 job-seekers will lose their unemployment benefits as a result, state officials said Monday.
The N.C. Employment Security Commission is ending its extended-benefits program - a federally funded payout that stretches up to 20 weeks after job-seekers exhaust their first 79 weeks of unemployment benefits - because it no longer meets government requirements due to the slipping unemployment rate. The payments end April 16.
On one hand, the change marks a milestone on the road to recovery: The extended-benefits program was implemented in October 2008, in the midst of a financial crisis that rocked the economy and cast thousands out of work. The state's unemployment rate climbed after that, hitting 11.4 percent, before falling in February to 9.7 percent.
On the other hand, ending the program worsens the burden for the state's growing number of long-term unemployed.
"It's absolutely nuts, because there's no jobs out there," said Bob Carrick, 56, who lost his job as a construction superintendent two years ago and has already run out of unemployment benefits. "Especially for construction people like me. Absolutely no jobs."
N.C. job-seekers are eligible for up to 26 weeks of initial unemployment benefits, plus up to 53 weeks of emergency unemployment compensation through a federal program set to expire in January 2012. Qualified job-seekers can currently receive 20 weeks on top of that, for a maximum of 99 weeks - nearly two years - of government benefits.
The state has paid more than $750 million to 234,000 people through its extended-benefits program, ESC spokesman Larry Parker said. The federal government has paid those benefits in full since February 2009, he said.
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