This week 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance. North Carolina has already processed 355,000 unemployment claims. That number is expected to climb rapidly. For many people unemployment is new territory.
Greg Whitmore of Wilmington has been outside a lot the last few weeks.
“I'm taking pictures and riding my bike and taking long walks.”
He’s 53, and has never been unemployed. Filing for benefits is a new experience.
“I don't know what's going to go down or how it's going to happen. It's my first time, so I'm looking at it as a big unknown. I went online and it took me three days to make the initial claim because there were problems with the website.”
Like so many people in the region who are now out of work, he is preparing for hardship. The chiropractic center and salon where he works as a licensed massage therapist won’t be opening anytime soon.
“I'm looking at my finances and thinking about how long I can make it like that and still be able to pay rent and eat and, and just take care of all my necessities.”
For tens of thousands of folks like Greg in the Cape Fear Region, financial challenges are ahead - if they haven’t arrived already. And North Carolina has historically had an Unemployment Insurance program among the stingiest in the United States.
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Dan Soques teaches economics at UNCW.
“So the St Louis Federal Reserve bank has estimated 47 million jobs across the U.S. are at risk. These are jobs that are customer-facing, and in some way have been told to be non-essential. So we could see a substantial increase. Maybe not at the rate of 6.6 million every single week, but certainly above what was the trend of unemployment insurance claims. About 200,000 was the normal amount prior to the crisis. We're talking astronomical levels compared to what we were experiencing even during the recession. These are really large numbers.”
“People are desperate for their unemployment insurance benefits and desperate for answers.”
Ginger Brick is Workforce Development Director for The Cape Fear Council of Governments.
“Likewise, companies are desperate for answers. They need to continue operations. They need to have good attendance from their existing employees and some are even still in hiring mode.”
She says, believe it or not, there are jobs. Companies are hiring.
“Yes, they are. In our NC Works Career Centers staff have been going through the existing job orders, contacting this company to make sure that those are currently active job orders and suppressing those that are not. So we're able to keep those jobs that are actually available at the forefront.”
“So there are lots of opportunities for people. They should really look at the companies that are truly hiring right now, whether it is your local hardware store, grocery store, but also those that are in the supply chain for the critical needs that we have right now.”
How long these opportunities may last is a question mark. As things get worse, companies will freeze their hiring efforts. And even if someone finds a new job, current restrictions may keep them at home. Ginger Brick’s advice to anyone unemployed: apply for benefits now.
Vince Winkel, WHQR News.
COVID-19: NC UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE INFORMATION
Rapid Response (Layoffs):
Layoff Aversion Support to Companies: