End of federal jobless benefits unlikely to change NC labor market soon, economist says

Investigators

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A deadline that’s been looming for the last 18 months is now here.

An estimated 7.5 million Americans are expected to lose federal unemployment benefits created under the CARES Act.

Here in North Carolina, the state Department of Employment Security estimates 70 percent of everyone currently receiving federal benefits will lose them Sept. 4.

The state says it has no plans to pick up any of the benefits the government has been providing.

Some economists don’t expect the ending of the federal benefits to create much of a change in the labor market in North Carolina. They say the delta variant of COVID-19 is partly to blame.

Jeanna Rinehart is among North Carolinians losing the federal unemployment benefits.

“Many people like to bash everyone and say ‘go get a job, go get a job’,” she said. “If it were that easy I ‘d be working right now.”

Rinehart became a single mom after separating from her ex-husband after the pandemic hit. She now cares for two sons ages 3 and 14.

She said she’s been looking for work she can do from home after losing her restaurant job back in March 2020 when it went out of business.

Getting a work-from-home has been difficult.

“I don’t have enough experience to do chat jobs where my son isn’t in the way or making noise in the background for me to be on phone calls,” she said.

Going back to restaurant work requires putting her youngest son Hudson in day care.

“The cheapest is $1,000 a month,” she said.

“For me to work in a restaurant, If I do that, all the money I make will go to day care,” Rinehart said. “How am I going to pay my rent?”

Economists say COVID-19 completely rearranged our economy.

“It means jobs you might have been qualified for pre-COVID are not that abundant,” said Professor David Robinson who is an economist at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business.

“It also means some jobs are riskier than they used to be because of COVID,” Robinson said.

Robinson says he doesn’t foresee a great rush to apply for jobs once the federal benefits end here in North Carolina.

“Turning off unemployment benefits doesn’t get people vaccinated. It doesn’t stop the delta variant,” he said. “Until we get the delta variant under control, which won’t happen until we increase vaccination numbers, we’re not going to see a rapid improvement in unemployment numbers.”

Robinson says that in states that ended federal benefits early, they did not see a big rush in people looking to get hired, proving to encomiasts correct that it wasn’t extended benefits keeping people from going back to work.

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