US Jobless Claims Rise Due to Hurricane Florence
Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose but remained near a 49 year low. This increase appeared unlikely to make a dent in the US labor market which remains strong. The claims for state unemployment benefits increased by 7,000 and adjusted to 214,000 for the week. Earlier, economists suggested that the claims forecast was slipping to 206,000 from 207,000. Claimes increased for South and North Carolina which were affected by Hurricane Florence and claims for Virginia and Puerto Rico were being estimated. The four weeks moving average of initial claims considered a better measure of labor market trends which irons out week-to-week volatility which rose by 2,500 to 209,500
The labor market is viewed as being near or at full employment, which many economists believe is helping U.S. wages grow a little more quickly and fueling expectations the Federal Reserve will increase interest rates again in December. This year alone, the Fed has already raised rates three times.
The claim report expressed that the number of people receiving benefits after the initial week of aid rose 4,000 to 1.66 million for the week ended September 29. The four weeks moving average of the so-called continued claims which has decreased 10,000 to 1.66 million to the lowest level since August 1973.
People seeking help with lost wages from Florence has surpassed Matthew. This is nearly 9300 North Carolinians that have applied for disaster-related unemployment benefits due to Hurricane Florence.
Many of these people which is nearly 8000 have applied for disaster unemployment assistance which is an additional benefit for those that are left without wages due to the storm. This is nearly four times the number of people that requested for disaster unemployment assistance after Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
There are several in Eastern North Carolina that have not resulted in several days and weeks without pay. These are hourly workers, self-employed workers, fishermen, and farmers. Most lost wages at the end of the month especially when they have to make payments for mortgage, rent or electricity.
Metros Hit Badly
The state has made payments of more than $300,000 in claims and this could easily pay out several million. After Hurricane Matthew, payouts reached more than $2.8 million for storm-related unemployment claims. There were more than 7545 applications for regular unemployment and around 2200 for DUA after the storm.
Hurricane Florence had a much larger impact on metropolitan areas, such as Wilmington, Jacksonville, and New Bern, while Hurricane Matthew hit more rural areas. The storm hit areas which have a higher labor market which means greater claims numbers.
Disaster unemployment assistance is available to people who live in one of the 28 counties approved for a federal disaster. This is for residents that cannot work as the roads are flooded, power outages and damage to the building are constraints to their work.
It also helps those who are ineligible for standard unemployment insurance recoup some of those lost wages from the storm. People may not be eligible for regular unemployment benefits because they’ve already used their 12-week allotment for the year or because they haven’t been in their job long enough to qualify for benefits.
However, workers should apply for standard unemployment as well as DUA. While standard unemployment benefits pay up to $350 a week for 12 weeks, DUA pays up to $350 a week for up to 27 weeks.
The Division of Employment Security has been busy since Florence hit North Carolina with all employees helping process claims. In Onslow County, the DES used the Division of Workforce Solutions’ only bus to make a mobile computer lab to process applications.
Scotland County which has the state’s largest unemployment rate at 7.6 percent had the state’s NC Works office handling claims in downtown Laurinburg. This area was flooded by the storm and forced workers to temporarily relocate to Scotland County’s economic development office.
Most roads in Scotland County’s rural region was flooded and damaged which kept away many workers from their jobs.
NC Works employees moved to Kordsa in Laurel Hill to assist with the worker’s file claims. Places like Kordsa, which employs around 100 people which manufactures nylon wiring for tires. The company’s building lost power and the roads around it flooded, causing it to halt operations for four days.
How to Apply for Disaster Unemployment Assistance
If you are a worker from one of these 28 counties in Eastern North Carolina then you have been approved for federal disaster assistance.
Eligible counties are: Beaufort, Bladen, Brunswick, Carteret, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Duplin, Greene, Harnett, Hoke, Hyde, Johnston, Jones, Lee, Lenoir, Moore, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pender, Pitt, Richmond, Robeson, Sampson, Scotland, Wayne and Wilson.
The eligibility criteria for DUA include the following where an individual should meet one or more of these conditions as a direct result of a major disaster
- No longer have a job
- Unable to reach their place of employment
- Scheduled to start work but unable to reach the job
- Become the breadwinner or major support of family because of disaster-related death of the head of household
- Cannot work because of injury directly caused by the declared disaster