One recently laid off worker told Eyewitness News he waited four hours to see someone about his claim. And with more workers being laid off, things could get worse.
Many workers like Scott Locke have put in years of service with companies, but that's not good enough in this economy.
"I worked for the contractor lot on Yonkers Road," Locke said. "Fifteen years of good service."
And he has the letter of recommendation letter to prove it.
"Scott is dependable and a hard worker," the letter states.
His hard work couldn't prevent him from being laid off. He was dismissed from his job due to economic reasons.
At the unemployment office in Raleigh, the numbers of unemployed workers have doubled. Statewide, unemployment rose to 8.7 percent, the highest in the last 25 years.
Unemployment rates in the metropolitan statistical areas for December were:
- Asheville - 6.7 percent, up from 6.1 percent in November.
- Burlington - 9.4 percent, up from 8.5 percent.
- Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord NC-SC - 8.9 percent, up from 8.2 percent.
- Durham - 6.1 percent, up from 5.8 percent.
- Fayetteville - 7.8 percent, up from 7.4 percent.
- Goldsboro - 7.9 percent, up from 7.2 percent.
- Greensboro-High Point - 8.6 percent, up from 8.1 percent.
- Greenville - 8.3 percent, up from 7.7 percent.
- Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton -10.9 percent, up from 10.2 percent.
- Jacksonville - 6.8 percent, up from 6.5 percent.
- Raleigh-Cary - 6.5 percent, up from 6.1 percent.
- Rocky Mount - 11.7 percent, up from 10.9 percent.
- Wilmington - 8.4 percent up from 7.6 percent.
- Winston-Salem - 7.6 percent, up from 7.2 percent.
A larger volume of claims makes it harder for workers at the unemployment office to process claims and get people their money.
Employment Security Commission Chairman Moses Carey says the office is trying to make sure everyone's needs are met.
"We are doing it through groups, via internet, we're doing it over the telephone trying to process the claims as quickly as possible," Carey told Eyewitness News.
So, how bad is it?
Nearly 400,000 people are out of work in North Carolina.
Fed up over being laid off and not being able to find a new job, Locke resorted to begging in the rain for two hours -- just to put food on his table.
Locke said, "I wrote a sign that said, 'Help. I need groceries. Unemployed. Layoffs.'"
Inside the ESC, it takes time to try finding a job and file for unemployment benefits all in one office.
Chairman Carey says a lack of resources, outdated software, a shortage of claim filers and the increase in the volume of claims are just some of the challenges.
"These are unprecedented times here. Hopefully, it will get better," Carey said.
Local and state leaders say the proposed federal stimulus package would offer funds needed to meet those challenges.
In the meantime, experts say there are things you can do to protect yourself.
- Keep all records from previous employers.
- Even if you get laid off, you can use a good letter of recommendation from a previous employer.
- Keep copies of important paperwork at home.
- Update your skills and resume.