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Charlotte Talks: The Surge Of Unemployment In The Age Of Coronavirus


Thursday, April 9, 2020

As the coronavirus challenges our healthcare system, it has also infected our job market: a record 10 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits in the last few weeks, including over 450,000 in North Carolina.

Social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders have been enacted to protect the public and flatten the curve of infections. Health officials say this is crucial to lower the death toll, as estimates project up to 240,000 American deaths even if the entire country follows the orders.

The unprecedented numbers are a result of businesses shuttering across the country, forcing the economy to a grinding halt. Goldman Sachs is predicting a jobless rate of 15%, whereas the previous peak unemployment during the modern era was at 10.8% in 1982. The highest rate of all time was during the Great Depression, at nearly 25%.

Many Americans have never filed for unemployment before – and never expected to. The process is relatively complicated, and the Department of Employment Security is flooded with requests. There have been complaints of long telephone wait times and claims not getting processed online. Nonetheless, Lockhart Taylor, head of the Division of Employment Security for North Carolina, said the first $8.2 million in unemployment checks were sent out last week, and that amount will rise quickly as checks arrive in mailboxes across the state.

Today we explore our new era of unemployment, how Charlotte is responding to the fallout and how we might navigate a world where unemployment is suddenly a new norm.


Philip Bump, national correspondent for The Washington Post

Danielle Frazier, president and CEO of Charlotte Works

Chuck Monteith, attorney at Monteith Law and former Deputy Chief Counsel of North Carolina’s Employment Security Commission, currently known as the Division of Employment Security

Tony Sulva, former front of house staff at Villani's Bakery

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Jesse Steinmetz is Producer of Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. Before joining WFAE in 2019, he was an intern at WNPR in Hartford, Connecticut and hosted a show at Eastern Connecticut State University.