Unemployment in North Carolina

ProPublica details perhaps the worst state in the nation for unemployment: North Carolina.

A few highlights from the article.

Some state unemployment systems have long been designed to exclude applicants. . . . Among the worst, historically and at present, is North Carolina. At the end of 2019 — when the economy was humming and pandemics were the stuff of horror fiction — fewer than 1 in 10 jobless people in North Carolina received unemployment benefits. That’s the lowest rate in the country and well below the average of 26%.

* * *

In Massachusetts, 66% of new applicants got their unemployment insurance payments in March, compared with 29% nationally and fewer than 10% in North Carolina . . .

North Carolina made radical changes to its unemployment system by essentially reducing unemployment benefits, making eligibility much harder to obtain, and reducing employers’ unemployment taxes even further. So, like Wisconsin, North Carolina paid off its debts on its unemployment trust fund by 2015 (actually, Wisconsin paid off its debt by 2014).

The result, as detailed in the article, is an incredibly complex and confusing system for claimants to navigate.

While Wisconsin did not adopt all of the legal changes done in North Carolina, administrative policy choices in Wisconsin have succeeded in lieu of the missing legal changes in making unemployment here impossibly difficult.

Now, in the midst of the pandemic, folks in North Carolina are finding themselves without the vital economic support unemployment is supposed to provide. Unfortunately, many in Wisconsin have had a similar experience. The biggest difference from North Carolina has been in how the new governor has attempted to fix the unemployment system.

Such an attempt to reverse course is precisely what’s happening in North Carolina right now. Since March, Roy Cooper, the state’s Democratic governor, has signed several executive orders to temporarily remove some of the obstacles from the application process. The orders waive the requirement that applicants search for work; eliminate the one-week waiting period between filing for unemployment and receiving benefits; and allow employers to file claims for entire groups of workers who have been laid off. (The DES, according to Rhoades, its spokesman, has also acted to “improve its processes, technology and staffing levels to respond to the surge in claims,” including by adding an online chat feature and increasing staff from 500 employees to 2,600.) The orders show, Evermore said, that “when the government decides to clear away the roadblocks to paying benefits, it can.”

As noted here, North Carolina has even managed to get PUA benefits to its SSDI recipients, something Wisconsin cannot seem to accomplish despite admitting it is discriminating against the disabled.

Hat tip to Art Heitzer for bringing this article to my attention.