Photo: 10 people were arrested outside the offices of North Carolina Senate Leader Phil Berger.
Jorge Valencia

Police officers arrested 10 protesters at the North Carolina General Assembly on Friday, as the protesters chanted and called on Republican lawmakers to put a referendum on a statewide ballot to raise the minimum wage.

Officers handcuffed the protesters outside the office of Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) after they refused to leave the building past its posted 5 p.m. closing time. 

Officers took protesters to the Wake County Detention Center and charged them with second degree trespassing, said police Chief Jeff Weaver.

Unemployment lines

State officials have paid down $2.8 billion owed to the federal government. The debt came from money used to pay unemployment benefits during the recession.

That debt climbed to $2.8 billion in early 2013. Months later, lawmakers then passed controversial House Bill 4, which did the following:

Orange County is North Carolina's Healthiest County according to a new report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin. The study evaluates every county in America based on factors like premature death, child poverty and crime. The report listed Wake County as the state's second healthiest.

Unemployment lines

The North Carolina Senate has approved a proposal that would change a panel that hears appeals for unemployment insurance, but Governor Pat McCrory vetoed a similar bill last year.

The plan would shorten the amount of time board members serve on the panel and stagger the terms between each member. It would also require people getting unemployment benefits to contact five instead of three potential employers every week.

Soldier saluting
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Fort Bragg is hosting a Transition Summit today and tomorrow to help out-going soldiers find jobs outside the military.

The federal unemployment rate for veterans is about six percent.  That's according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics' July numbers.

Unemployment lines


North Carolina lawmakers voted last year to end long-term unemployment benefits.

The move meant the state stopped accepting money from the federal government for workers who had been out of a job for 20 weeks or more. Legislators said they made the change in order to start paying down more than $2 billion in jobless benefits the state already owed to the federal government.

Photo: The North Carolina General Assembly's Legislative Building
Jorge Valencia

State lawmakers wrapped up a busy week today before the July Fourth holiday.

This week, lawmakers finally broke the logjam in budget negotiations, with an unusual open conference committee meeting in which House and Senate legislators came to an agreement on Medicaid shortfall numbers.

In the meantime, lawmakers pushed through other measures, including one House bill earlier in the week that would study removing law enforcement officers' personal information from online records.

Protesters gathered outside the Senate chamber to demonstrate against policies they say are regressive.

Nineteen Moral Monday protesters were arrested yesterday after demonstrating in the legislative building against budget proposals and policies passed by Republican-led General Assembly.

Dozens of protesters stomped, danced, and chanted at the very tops of their lungs, days after a superior court judge struck down new rules that prohibit loud activities and noises that would cause disturbances. The Wake County judge on Friday argued that the rules were unconstitutional, overly broad and vague.

Photo: North Carolina's Old Capitol building
Jorge Valencia

The House of Representatives has been busy working on a budget plan for the state and other large pieces of legislation. Here's a summary of the days news from the State Capitol:

The centerpiece of the spending plan lawmakers are adjusting is pay for public school teachers. A five percent raise is what House Speaker Thom Tillis and his colleagues are suggesting.

That’s almost the mid-point between the two existing budget outlines. The governor has suggested a two-percent raise, and the senate an 11-percent raise.

Unemployment lines

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the latest figures on the state’s unemployed. But do these numbers paint an accurate picture of the jobs economy in North Carolina?

Host Frank Stasio talks to Triangle Business Journal Reporter Jason deBruyn about the latest statistics and the ways to count the unemployed. His recent coverage includes:

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, flanked by state Rep. Rosa Gill (D-Wake) and state Sen. Josh Stein (D-Wake)
Jorge Valencia

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan said on Monday that she’s pushing to make long-term unemployed people in North Carolina eligible again for federal emergency unemployment benefits.

Hagan, a Democrat, introduced a provision for a possible extension of nationwide unemployment benefits that would make North Carolina eligible again, she said. The state was disqualified from Emergency Unemployment Compensation last year after the Republican-led General Assembly reduced benefits at the state level.

NC Policy Watch
NC Policy Watch

The state’s jobless rate in August 2013 is the lowest it’s been in the past year.  But there is still a big loss in payroll jobs.

North Carolina’s unemployment rate is 8.7%, down 0.2 of a percentage point from July and nearly a full point down from this time last year.  The national jobless rate is 7.3%.

North Carolina House lawmakers have tentatively passed a bill largely along party lines that would lower benefits for unemployed workers. The measure would reduce the maximum weekly allowed benefit from $500 to $350. It would also reduce the maximum amount of time a laid-off worker could receive benefits from 26 weeks to between 12 and 20 weeks. Democratic Representative Paul Luebke said this is the wrong bill to be passing at a time when unemployment in the state is high.

State lawmakers in the House plan to take up a bill this evening that would reduce unemployment benefits for laid-off workers.  House Bill 4 is expected to reach the floor for lawmakers to consider tonight. The measure would speed up repayment of North Carolina’s 2.57 billion dollar debt to the federal government. The state borrowed that money to help pay unemployment benefits to a rapidly growing number of people who lost their jobs during the recession.

  The General Assembly is expected to consider legislation this week that will reform the federal unemployment insurance program. Republican leaders say the changes will help pay back a growing debt the state owes the federal government.

Advocates for workers say they are unnecessary and will push thousands of residents over a financial cliff. News and Observer reporter Mandy Locke joins Frank Stasio to discuss the changes and how it may affect tens of thousands of North Carolina residents.

North Carolina’s metropolitan areas show some positive momentum in the jobs front. But three areas in the state lag behind the rest.

Almost 100-percent of the job growth in North Carolina since the end of the recession in 2009 has occurred in the state’s metropolitan areas.   And Allan Fryer, a policy analyst with the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center says 90-percent of the job growth has occurred in only three metro areas – Raleigh, Charlotte and Durham.

Many people could end up paying more with the latest draft proposal to overhaul the state’s unemployment system and re-pay the federal government. 

Tessie Bethel is a laid off custodian.   Her unemployment runs out before Christmas.  She gets 179-dollars a week.

Tessie Bethel:  "I had to pay 85-dollars for an eye exam yesterday.  It’s gone. I only have 40-dollars left for up until next Tuesday again. It  doesn’t last."

A nnational report shows the number of working teenagers and young adults is at its lowest point in 50 years. 

A manufacturing plant in High Point will close by the end of next year and more than 600 people could lose their jobs.

The state Commerce Department says North Carolina's unemployment rate has risen slightly.  The state's unemployment rate went up to 9-point-7 percent in August. Analysts say that translates to nearly six thousand more people reported as being out of work. That brings the total number of unemployed in North Carolina to more than 450,000.

The economic downturn hit North Carolina harder than much of the country, and it will take the state longer to recover. That's the conclusion of a new report from UNC's Global Research Institute.

North Carolina's unemployment rate increased slightly to 9-point-6 percent in July. It's the first increase after holding steady for three months at 9-point-4 percent. But Larry Parker with the Division of Employment Security says overall, the numbers indicate things are moving in the right direction.

North Carolina's unemployment rate is continuing to show improvement.

Gurnal Scott: The state's jobless rate in April fell to 9.4 percent down three-tenths from 9.7 percent in March. This marks four straight months that the rate has gone down. Larry Parker is spokesman for the state Commerce Department's Division of Employment Security. He says while the decrease is good news, it doesn't mean the state's economic recovery is speeding up.

Thousands of North Carolina residents have been notified that their extended unemployment benefits will expire by the end of the week.

Leoneda Inge:  Notices were sent out to 17-thousand unemployed workers, informing them of the bad news.  The extended jobless benefits from the state kicked-in four years ago, during the recession.  But because of the steady drop in North Carolina’s unemployment rate, the extended benefits, or E-B trigger has stopped.  Larry Parker is a spokesman for the Commerce Department’s Division of Employment Security.

More than 80 counties across North Carolina experienced a drop in their unemployment rates.  But communities in the eastern and western corners of the state did not fare as well.