The number of weeks of federally funded unemployment benefits available under the Extended Benefits program will fall to six beginning Oct. 10, according to an update from the state Division of Employment Security.
The program currently provides 9.6 weeks. The number is dropping because of a decline in the state’s unemployment rate, DES said.
The state’s unemployment rate fell from from 8.5% in July to 6.5% in August.
The federal extended benefits are available to people who have exhausted their regular benefits during periods of high unemployment. People who have used 12 weeks of state unemployment benefits — the maximum North Carolina allows — and 13 weeks of Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation may be eligible.
The number of weeks of Extended Benefits available is also tied to the number of weeks of state benefits available. North Carolina and Florida offer the shortest maximum regular benefit duration in the country at 12 weeks.
Most states provide up to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, which qualifies their residents for 13 to 20 weeks of federal extended benefits, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank that focuses on programs for low- and moderate-income families.
The maximum number of weeks of federal extended benefits in North Carolina is 9.6.
Also as a result of the change, the maximum number of weeks for which a person may be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance will be 39 instead of 42.6.
Benefits tied to change in unemployment rate
While the N.C. unemployment rate fell from 8.5% to 6.5% in August, not all of those people have returned to work, The News & Observer previously reported. Because the unemployment rate only reflects jobless people who are actively looking for work, the decline also reflects a drop in the workforce overall. Between July and August, the seasonally adjusted workforce shrank from 4,897,607 to 4,825,921, a decline of more than 70,000 people, or 1.5%
“With this reduction it is even more critical that NC stop tying our duration to the Unemployment Rate which is a flawed measure of the health of an economy,” wrote Alexandra Sirota, director of the Budget & Tax Center, part of the North Carolina Justice Center, in an email. “Until such time as people have jobs to go back to and the jobs permanently lost are replaced, Unemployment Insurance is a critical support. Without it hardship will only further grow and hold back our recovery.”
North Carolina also offers one of the lowest average benefit amounts in the country. As of August, North Carolina’s average weekly benefit was $210.98, compared to the national average of $305.39, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. That number excludes federal supplements.
Gov. Roy Cooper signed a bill on Sept. 4 increasing the state’s weekly benefit amount by $50. Those eligible will receive the increase retroactively to the benefit week beginning Sept. 6. DES expects to start making those payments by Oct. 30, according to the Friday update.