March unemployment claims at 800

Published 7:40 pm Friday, May 8, 2020

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New statistics released Friday by the North Carolina Division of Employment Security show that 839 people in Beaufort County filed for unemployment in March, with 653 of those claims being related to COVID-19. That’s on top of 375 local residents who had continuing claims filed with DES.

Of the new local claims filed in March, 221, or about 26.3%, came from the leisure and hospitality industry, followed by 157 claims from the education and health services industry. Most of the new claimants were in the age 25-34 demographic, with 206 people in that age group out of work. Claims from women made up 68.2% of the new filings.

BY INDUSTRY: Of the 839 new unemployment claims filed by Beaufort County residents in March, 221, or 26.3%, were in the leisure and hospitality industry. (NC DES)

BY AGE: In terms of age, claims came from every demographic in Beaufort County, with most in the 25-34 and 35-44 age ranges. (NC DES)

Regionally, other counties saw similar jumps in March; 117 new claims in Hyde County; 344 in Martin County; 177 in Washington County; and 193 new claims in Pamlico County. With considerably higher populations, Pitt and Craven counties saw new claims in the thousands. In all cases, the majority of new claims were related to COVID-19.

Unemployment statewide and throughout the country hit grim milestones this week, reaching the highest numbers since the Great Depression.

All told, more than 1 million people had filed unemployment claims in North Carolina as of Friday. Of those claims, more than 900,000 were directly related to COVID-19. Less than half of those claimants, however, had received unemployment insurance payments.

Local resident Tammera Cooper is one of the 470,000 North Carolinians who have been able to receive unemployment payments since the economic disaster began. A writer by trade, Cooper also works for a temporary staffing agency in Greenville, managing temp workers at auto factories in Michigan. When the factories up north reduced hours drastically, Cooper found herself out of a job.

“We actually started feeling the shutdown before it was felt here in North Carolina,” Cooper said. “My position was no longer necessary, so I’m on a temporary layoff until things get going back at the auto parts factory again.”

Laid off at the end of March, it took three weeks for Cooper to get her unemployment insurance approved, partially due to an overwhelmed website at the North Carolina Division of Employment Security. After a week of trying to sign in, it took two more to get approved. All told, she spent three weeks without any income.

“We had to budget,” Cooper said. “I’ve been going grocery shopping once a week. You make the menu and use coupons if you can. It’s been a lot of penny pinching.”

For those still struggling with the DES website, Cooper encourages persistence and says there have been improvements in the system. While requirements to look for work have been lifted for unemployment, she has to log in on a weekly basis to touch base with the state.

“Some advice would be to try to work the system on off hours so that it’s not quite as busy,” Cooper said.

While Cooper has been able to get into the system, thousands of others across the state are still struggling. As unemployment claims began to skyrocket at the end of March and into April, the staff at the Division of Employment Security was quickly overwhelmed.

In mid-April, the division announced plans to triple its workforce to help address the issues. Still, issues filing for unemployment persist for many North Carolinians. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper addressed the issues during a press conference Friday.

“The Employment Security commission has worked to expand the number of people they have on the telephone now to over 1,000,” the governor said. “They have opened up an online chat function, which thousands of people have taken advantage of this week. I am pushing them, because they know that people out there need this help. They’ve moved hours into the weekend and into the evening, so they’re working hard at this.”

According to the latest figures from the N.C Division of Employment Security, the unemployment rate in Beaufort County went from 4.4% in February to 5% in March. The overall workforce saw a reduction of 584 people, and about 950 people were unemployed in the county in March. However, the latest report indicates that those statistics are based on activity prior to March 15, and “do not reflect the full impact of recent COVID-19 related shutdowns in North Carolina.”

Unemployment statistics for April will likely be released later this month.

Across the United States, more than 33 million people have applied for unemployment insurance in the past seven weeks. That places the estimated national unemployment rate at 14.7%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with employment falling sharply in all major industries, especially leisure and hospitality.

For more information about applying for unemployment insurance, visit Those seeking jobs can visit Job seekers seeking employment opportunities can text the word “JOBS” to 252-320-9924. Employers that have immediate hiring needs can text the word “HIRE” to 919-418-3829. For information regarding Unemployment Insurance, individuals can text the letters “UI” to 919-418-3829.