Last week, 137,573 people filed initial jobless claims in North Carolina, according to a new weekly report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Over the previous two weeks following the closure of many restaurants, bars, and nonessential businesses, about 265,000 people in North Carolina had filed for unemployment, meaning that as of April 4, more than 402,000 workers had been laid off in less than a month. 

Last week, more than 246,000 of those who filed for unemployment in North Carolina were awarded benefits, according to the BLS report, a sharp uptick from the previous week and an indication that the state’s unemployment office is adjusting to the surge in claims. As of last Wednesday, the state had denied at least 53,000 claims, the INDY previously reported, most often because the person filing did not earn enough reported income to qualify. 

That usually happens when an employer does not report a server or bartender’s tips as wages, says state Senator Wiley Nickel. 

North Carolina is among the stingiest states in the country when it comes to unemployment benefits. It’s also among the most difficult places to obtain those benefits. Freelancers, gig workers, and the self-employed are not covered under the state’s program, though they will be under the $600-a-week federal benefit provided by the CARES Act.

According to the Century Foundation, only 10.5 percent of North Carolina’s unemployed workers collect benefits, the lowest percentage of any state. 

Across the country, 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, which, atop the more than 10 million who applied for benefits over the previous two weeks, indicates an unemployment rate of 12 percent or more, the highest since the Great Depression, economists say

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