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Editorial: Jobless need a lifeline

No one can be surprised that Rowan County’s jobless rate went up in October to 13.3 percent, after dipping below 13 percent for one month. While Rowan has had some good news on the economic front, the term “recovery” still seems premature.
“Compassion,” however, should be front and center. Unemployment benefits and retraining programs can only get a family so far. With more than 9,000 people counted as unemployed, thousands of Rowan families are heading into winter and the Christmas season with a very iffy economic outlook. People who have never applied for food stamps are filling out applications and learning help could be 30 days away. Others are lining up at Rowan Helping Ministries and the Salvation Army for whatever they can get ó food, help with a heating bill, you name it. Sometimes they find the pantry is virtually empty.
They’re far from alone. The unemployment rate increased in 74 of the state’s 100 counties in October. Nearly half a million North Carolinians ó 484,120 ó were unemployed that month. Rates in surrounding counties were all above the state rate of 11 percent, including 11.7 percent in Cabarrus, 13.1 percent in Davidson, 11.3 percent in Davie, 12.7 percent in Iredell and 12.7 percent in Stanly. But it could be worse. The highest rate in the state is in Scotland County, with a jobless rate of more than 17 percent.
Thank goodness for unemployment insurance. In October, the state shelled out $186.3 million in jobless benefits to 196,561 individuals statewide. That’s not a welfare program; it’s unemployment insurance for those who have had jobs and lost them through no fault of their own.
These are serious times. If you are fortunate enough to have a job and feel stable economically, consider helping someone else. Countless local agencies help families at times like these. Give someone you don’t know a Christmas present by helping those agencies serve people in need.

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