Ashe County has the highest unemployment rate, as of February, in the High Country region at 9.1 percent, according to data released Wednesday, March 9 by the N.C. Department of Commerce.
While the 0.4 percent drop sounds like good news, the labor force in the county dropped from 11,063 in January to 10,878 for February. The number of citizens filing unemployment dropped from 1,050 to 994.
“The number of workers employed statewide (not seasonally adjusted) decreased in February by 9,847 to 4,307,683, while those unemployed decreased 18,862 to 304,755,” according to the DOC’s release. “Since February 2013, the number of workers employed statewide increased 43,250, while those unemployed decreased 120,869.”
The release said unemployment estimates are subject to large seasonal patterns.
The county also dropped in state unemployment rankings from No. 84 to No. 85.
According to the N.C. Department of Commerce, Ashe County’s unemployment rate dropped 3.9 percent from Feb. 2013, when the county had a 13 percent unemployment rate, to Feb. 2014.
In the High County Region, Mitchell County had the second highest unemployment rate at 8.9 percent, while Watauga County had the lowest unemployment rate at 6.2 percent. In other counties neighboring Ashe, Alleghany County had an unemployment rate of 8.3 percent, while Wilkes County’s unemployment rate sits at 7.5 percent.
Across the state, unemployment dropped from 7 percent in Jan. 2014 to 6.6 in Feb. 2014.
The labor force of N.C. also dropped from 4.64 million in January to 4.61 million in February, according to the DOC’s January and February unemployment updates. The number of unemployment claims dropped from 325,555 to 304,755.
The most claims were filed in Mecklenburg, Wake and Guilford counties.
Statewide, five counties had unemployment rates of 5 percent or below, while eight counties had rates of 10 percent or higher. Orange County had the lowest rate at 4.4 percent while Graham County had the highest rate at 13.8 percent.
All 14 of the state’s Metropolitian Statistical Areas saw decreases in unemployment between January and February. The biggest change came in the Rocky Mount MSA where the rate dropped from 10.2 percent to 9.6 percent.
The N.C. DOC will release statewide unemployment data for March 2014 on Monday, April 21.
Wil Petty can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @WilPetty.