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Gov. Cooper’s executive order aimed at helping revamp NC’s workforce

Just before the weekend, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper issue an Executive Order aimed at helping get North Carolinians back to work. 

“Unemployment benefits have provided a critical lifeline for many North Carolinians living on the edge due to the pandemic. As our state emerges from the pandemic, we want to help people safely return to work as soon as possible. Reinstating the work search guidelines will help connect claimants with employers, resources and tools to help them return to the workforce,” said Governor Cooper. 

With unemployment qualifications and requirements across the country relaxed during the COVID19 Pandemic, businesses who have reopened have struggled to find workers. Businesses around Western North Carolina have announced reduced operating hours or operational capacities, with many fast food restaurants closing their doors entirely due to the lack of staff. 

“Unfortunately, even Santa isn’t immune from the country wide employment shortage,” The popular Santa’s Land theme park located in Cherokee posted to Facebook on Friday. “We are still opening this Saturday and will be open Sunday; however, we will not be open during the week. We are still in the process of interviewing and hiring…hopefully, we will have a full staff by next weekend and will be open 7 days a week as usual. We will update as the situation changes.”

Like Santa’s Land, restaurants, seasonal businesses, even large companies are having to get creative to find staff needed to operate. Just this week, the Cherokee Harrahs Casino announced t has increased the starting pay rate for all non-tipped positions to $15 per hour. The company says this wage increase for new and existing Team Members went into effect immediately. The casino is currently looking to hire over 700 new employees with job openings in dozens of departments. 

“Harrah’s Cherokee is committed to being the employer of choice in Western North Carolina,” Harrah’s release states. “In this competitive job market, we are hopeful that the combination of a $15 per hour starting wage, an exceptional benefits package, and hiring bonuses will help us recruit the top talent. We’re looking for employees who enjoy building connections with each other and our guests by creating memorable moments – creating the extraordinary.”

Under Executive Order 216, all existing claimants of unemployment benefits will be required to fulfill work search requirements beginning June 6, 2021, a provision of unemployment that has been suspended since the beginning of COVID19. All existing claimants will be required over the next several weeks to register with a jobseeker account on

The Order also directs the N.C. Department of Commerce to explore opportunities, consistent with federal law and through the use of certain federal funds, to establish a reemployment incentive program for jobless workers who find and maintain employment.   

Governor Cooper’s executive order was released the same day the state seasonally adjusted April unemployment rates were released showing that for April the unemployment rate was 5.0 percent, decreasing 0.2 of a percentage point from March’s revised rate. The national rate increased 0.1 of a percentage point to 6.1 percent.

Friday’s action expands upon Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 200, which reinstated work search requirements for new claimants after March 14, 2021. As North Carolina makes progress on its key COVID-19 metrics, the work search requirements will now apply to everyone currently filing for unemployment benefits.

Under Governor Cooper’s Order:

Claimants must make contact with at least three different employers each week and keep a record of their work search, as is required by state law. One of the three weekly job contacts can be satisfied by attending an approved reemployment activity offered by a NCWorks Career Center or a partnering agency.

To continue receiving benefits, all unemployment claimants will be required to register with a jobseeker account on, North Carolina’s online portal for employment and training services. Jobseekers can use to search and apply for jobs, access labor market information and find opportunities for workforce training. Over the next several weeks, existing claimants will receive notifications about registering for NCWorks.

Since the start of the pandemic, North Carolina has distributed more than $11.7 billion in unemployment benefits across multiple state and federal programs. Approximately 245,000 North Carolinians are currently receiving benefit payments each week.

North Carolina’s April 2021 unemployment rate decreased 8.5 percentage points from a year ago. The number of people employed increased 4,497 over the month to 4,761,974 and increased 707,042 over the year. The number of people unemployed decreased 8,109 over the month to 250,865 and decreased 383,958 over the year.

Seasonally adjusted Total Nonfarm employment, as gathered through the monthly establishment survey, decreased 5,800 to 4,459,800 in April. Major industries experiencing increases were Manufacturing, 2,100; Construction, 1,600; Leisure & Hospitality Services, 1,500; Information, 1,000; and Education & Health Services, 100. Major industries experiencing decreases were Professional & Business Services, 6,500; Trade, Transportation & Utilities, 4,400; Government, 700; Financial Activities, 200; Other Services, 200; and Mining & Logging, 100.

Since April 2020, Total Nonfarm jobs increased 408,400 with the Total Private sector increasing by 426,000 and Government decreasing by 17,600. Major industries experiencing increases were Leisure & Hospitality Services, 154,500; Trade, Transportation & Utilities, 84,100; Professional & Business Services, 60,600; Manufacturing, 36,900; Education & Health Services, 34,100; Other Services, 31,900; Construction, 12,800; Financial Activities, 6,400; and Information, 4,800. Major industries experiencing decreases were Government, 17,600; and Mining & Logging, 100.

The next unemployment update is scheduled for Wednesday, June 2, 2021 when the county unemployment rates for April 2021 will be released.

NC Works Career Centers across Western North Carolina are holding job fairs nearly weekly to help local businesses find workers and to get people back into the workforce. 

For work search assistance in North Carolina, jobseekers can contact NCWorks at or 1-855-NCWorks. Information about unemployment benefits can be found at

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