"North Carolina continues to feel the effects of the nation's economic crisis and the Employment Security Commission will continue to do all it can to help people looking for work," said ESC Chairman Moses Carey Jr. "Beginning in early April those receiving unemployment benefits will get a boost. The ESC is set up to start paying an extra $25 a week to eligible claimants as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This additional money can make a difference for families facing difficult circumstances."
The numbers may show that North Carolina is lagging behind many other parts of the country in terms of the recession and its effects.
Many economists have pointed to a rebound in the housing market as a leading indicator that the recession is slowing and a recovery is underway. Nationally, new home sales jumped 4.7 percent in February, but the numbers were the opposite in the Raleigh/Durham area. Home sales in February were half what they were a year ago.
Across the country, home sellers have had to slash prices to attract buyers, and many in the Triangle have found themselves pricing property below the listed tax value to get a sale.
Unemployment numbers in North Carolina are also worse than the rest of the country. Statistics from the Labor Department put the national average somewhere near 8.5 percent. While the numbers are not encouraging, economists point out they've begun to level off - a sign that the steep drop in the economy could be reaching the bottom.
That sentiment is reflected in the attitude of the public. According to a report in Thursday's USA today, a new Gallup poll shows the number of people who think the economy is improving is going up. 29 percent took the optimistic view - which Gallup says is the highest number since July 2007.
Those looking for increased optimism in the Triangle might find it in a recent poll done for the Regional Transportation Alliance (RTA). While asking about support for light rail and other transportation improvements, Fallon Research asked if voters in the Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill areas thought their community was headed in the right direction overall. 70 percent said yes.
But despite optimism for the future, North Carolina still has to face the here and now. In addition to record unemployment numbers that may get worse before they get better, the state is dealing with crushing tax revenue declines. Governor Perdue and the Legislature continue to hammer out budget cuts that could mean layoffs and furloughs.
State universities have announced 5 percent budget cuts and layoffs at some campuses have already begun.