No time is a good time to be without a job.
But for the long-term unemployed -- defined as being out of work for at least 27 weeks -- these remain particularly perilous and frustrating times.
More economists and employment officials acknowledge what a group of long-term jobless Triad residents already know firsthand -- some employers are increasingly leery of hiring someone full time who has been out of work that for long, citing potentially deteriorating skills and lack of new training.
Adding to their financial and emotional anxiety is House Bill 4, which has passed the state House and is up for discussion in the state Senate Tuesday.
The bill, which has Gov. Pat McCrory's support, would cut state unemployment insurance benefits from a maximum of weeks 26 weeks to 20 and from a maximum weekly amount of $535 to $350.
The move would affect more than 155,000 North Carolinians if the bill becomes law July 1, according to the N.C. Justice Center, a left-leaning advocacy group.
A 2011 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond shows that as workers age, it becomes increasing harder to recover from taking a 40 percent hit in net worth; for many North Carolinians that would represent basically a 40 percent reduction in their paycheck.
"The proportional shock pushes the household deeper into debt and is costliest when the household has the most debt," according to the study. "As age increases, so does median wealth, and the same percentage drop in net worth represents a much larger absolute loss."
'Playing with people's lives'
Connie Reynolds, 53, of Mocksville has been searching for work for more than two months after her general clerk job at Parks Mazda in High Point was eliminated after nearly 10 years. She said she made $13.25 an hour, or about $530 a week.
"I had a decent paying job with a company I liked working for, and now I'm down to nothing," Reynolds said. "I had no warning I was being replaced, no write ups or anything. They just wanted to bring in someone part time that they could pay less."
To lower her expenses, Reynolds has moved in with her parents, both of whom have health issues. She said she expects to get her first unemployment benefit check this week after some miscommunications between the company and the N.C. Division of Employment Security delayed the filing process.
"I used my last paycheck to pay up my bills, but that was two months ago, and now I am getting creditors calling for their money," Reynolds said.
"This already has been leaving a real sour taste in my mouth, so to hear my benefits may be cut after July 1 in this economy is just unfair for somebody who wants desperately to work even with a herniated disk. I don't want to live off disability. I want to earn my living as I have my whole life.
"These legislators are playing with people's lives, and they just don't seem to care. I don't think they ever will unless losing their job happens to them or somebody close to them," Reynolds said.
Under a living wage
It's not easy to determine how much of an impact having the weekly maximum benefit drop from $535 to $350 would have on N.C. households. The weekly benefits have taxes taken out.
To qualify for the current $535 maximum weekly benefit, a person would have to make at least $55,000. With the drop to a maximum $350 weekly benefit, a person would have to make at least $37,000.
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