RALEIGH – With unemployment claims now nearing 720,000, North Carolina ranks as the fifth hardest state for job losses since the COVID-19 crisis accelerated across the country in March.

A new study from financial information site WalletHub ranks North Carolina – the nation’s ninth largest in terms of population – and other states based on the percentage growth in claims from a year ago. NC’s is more than 3.8 thousand percent.

Since January, the state is the fourth biggest hit for losses.

More than 14,000 North Carolinians applied for jobless benefits on April 22, according to the state’s Department of Employment Services. North Carolina was tne seventh most affected last week. Of those, some 617,000 are attributed to the pandemic.

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The news comes as another 4 million Americans sought unemployment benefits over the last week, pushing the total to more than 26 million and thus wiping out all new job increases since the end of the Great Recession in 2008-2009, WalletHub notes.

And the job situation isn’t likely to improve rapidly.

“Though some states are already relaxing certain social distancing restrictions or are planning to soon, a full reopening of the economy still seems far off,” WalletHub says.

Read the full study online.