More than 97,000 North Carolina workers filed initial jobless claims last week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s weekly report. Since the COVID-19 pandemic led to closures of many businesses in mid-March, more than 900,000 people in the state have sought unemployment benefits. 

Nationwide, more than 3.8 Americans filed for unemployment last week. About 30 million have in the last two months, a number that likely pushes the unemployment rate into the high teens—at the height of the Great Depression, it was 25 percent—and comes despite the more than $6 trillion Congress and the Federal Reserve have pumped into the economy to keep it afloat during an unprecedented lockdown. 

President Trump’s social distancing guidelines expire today, and in the next week, at least 31 states plan to begin partially reopening their economies.

North Carolina’s stay-at-home order is in effect through at least May 8, but even if it is lifted, Governor Cooper’s cautious three-phase plan to reopen the economy will take about two months to fully unfurl—assuming everything goes well. The job losses, meanwhile, continue to mount. On Tuesday, more than 31,000 people filed for benefits in the state. 

Contact editor in chief Jeffrey C. Billman at

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