Ashe County’s jobless rate fell 0.8 percent in February to 13.0 percent, according to the latest county figures from the N.C. Division of Employment Security.
“A lot of seasonal employment has started,” said Ashe County Employment Security Office Manager George Eller. This worked to offset layoffs at United Chemicon, he said.
Ashe’s February rate was down 1.2 percent over-the-year (OTY). The county’s double-digit unemployment trend has now broken the 50-month mark.
Of the county’s labor force of 11,776 in February, 1,535 workers were unemployed.
There were 237 initial claims in February, down from 567 in January, according to DES spokesman Larry Parker.
Of these, 180 — more than three quarters — were attached or temporary claims filed by employers. “Typically, most of them will be hired back,” said Parker.
For week ending March 30, a total of 243 Ashe County claimants were drawing regular unemployment, with another 248 receiving federal extended Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC), he said.
Regular unemployment benefits paid in Ashe from March 2012 to February 2013 totalled $4,393,769. For the same period, EUC benefits were $3,052,344, for a total of $7,446,113 in benefits paid in the county.
Parker said the DES is now preparing to implement new N.C. unemployment reform policies beginning July 1. Claimants currently in the system will not be affected, but after that date maximum weekly benefits will be reduced to $350, with a maximum benefit duration of 20 weeks, he said.
Increases in employer’s State Unemployment Tax Assessment (SUTA) rates will also be effective July 1, he said, as will a 20 percent surcharge on employers’ total SUTA contibutions.
Neighboring counties also experienced February jobless rate decreases: Alleghany fell 0.6 to 12.0 percent, down 1.5 percent OTY; Avery dropped 1.1 to 12.6 percent, decreasing just 0.1 percent OTY; Watauga dipped 0.6 to 8.9 percent, also shaving off 0.1 percent OTY; and Wilkes came down 0.6 to 11.1 percent, with a 0.6 percent OTY decrease.
February unemployment rates decreased in 99 N.C. counties, and increased in one. All 14 of the State’s metro areas saw rate decreases.
Graham County had the highest unemployment rate at 20.2 percent while Orange County had the lowest at 5.9
Among the Metro areas, Rocky Mount had the highest rate at 13.2 percent, and Durham-Chapel Hill had the lowest at 7.0 percent.
North Carolina’s statewide February non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 9.5 percent. Statewide unemployment benefits paid since March 2012 totalled $2,735,035,926 for all programs.
The federal seasonally adjusted rate dipped to 7.7 percent in February, the lowest monthly rate since December 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS February Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey shows there are 3.1 unemployed per job opening.