According to the March ESC report, Ashe County’s jobless rate dropped to 12.3 percent, which means there are still 1,467 people looking for work. The rate was 13.3 in February with 1,532 seeking employment.
This is good, and expected, news said the head of the local ESC office.
“We are happy to see it dropping,” said George Eller, the supervisor at the Ashe County Employment Security Commission.
Eller attributed the drop in the jobless rate to the upcoming summer months with its usual uptick in hiring and additional manufacturing activity.
“This is seasonal hiring and people are going back to work…more people are getting jobs right now,” said Eller.
Ashe County’s jobless rate is following an overall trend in unemployment rates across the state.
According to the ESC February estimate, unemployment rates fell in 99 of the state’s 100 counties.
“Unemployment rates declined in nearly every county in March,” said ESC Chairman Lynn R. Holmes in a prepared press release on the recent figures. “We are beginning to see more counties drop below a rate of 10 percent unemployment. This reflects the commitment by Gov. Perdue and our workforce partners to grow jobs in our state, and this agency remains focused on putting people back to work.”
Graham County, according to the ESC, had the state’s highest unemployment rate at 16.4 percent. Orange County had the state’s lowest rate at 6.1 percent.
Of Ashe County’s neighbors, Watauga County’s rate was down from 8.3 percent in February to 8.1 percent in March. Wilkes County’s rate was also down over half a percentage point, from 12.6 to 12.0 percent. Alleghany County’s rate dropped 1.3 percent, from 13.5 to 12.2 between February and March and Avery County’s rate dropped from 12.2 to 11.4 during the same time, according to ESC statistics.
Ashe County slightly exceeded Watauga County in the total amount of unemployment insurance benefits paid out in the last 12 months to the jobless.
According to ESC statistics, $14,996,569 has been paid to those unemployed in Ashe County since April 2010. Watauga’s jobless have received $14,561,871, followed by Alleghany’s unemployed receiving $5,341,869 and Avery’s $7,691,081. The jobless in Wilkes have received $37,737,227.
The number of those residents currently receiving unemployment benefits in Ashe County is broken out into the programs from where each is receiving those benefits.
According to Larry Parker, acting public information officer for the ESC in Raleigh, for March 2011, there were 525 county residents who were getting weekly checks from “regular” unemployment insurance, which offers benefits for up to 26 weeks. There are another 142 county residents in the 20-week Tier I benefit program. There are another 116 residents in the 14-week Tier II program, 151 residents in the 13-week Tier III program, 36 residents in the six-week Tier IV program, and 94 residents who have exhausted their benefits using the regular and Tier programs and will receive an additional 20 weeks of unemployment payments. Those who will eventually exhaust all of their unemployment benefits have become known nationally as the “99ers,” which means they will have received 99 weeks of benefits.
Ashe County’s unemployment rate has bounced over the last 18 months from a high of 16.1 percent in February 2010 to a low of 9.7 percent, which occurred in September 2009 and 2010. In the last 12 months the county jobless rate has been: February 2010, 16.1 percent; March 2010, 13.8 percent; April 2010, 11.4 percent; May 2010, 11.3 percent; June 2010, 11.0 percent; July 2010, 10.9 percent; August 2010, 10.6 percent; September 2010, 9.7 percent; October 2010, 10.0 percent; November 2010, 10.8 percent; December 2010, 11.4 percent; and January 2011, 13.8 percent.
Another trend born out by data compiled by the ESC is that the Ashe County civilian labor force has decreased by nearly 1,200 over the last 12 months. According to the data, in March 2010, there were 12,390 residents available for employment. By March 2011, there were 11,962 residents available for work, which is up from 11,675 in February.
The available labor force dropped below 12,000 in January 2011, which was the first time, according to the ESC statistics, since December 1999.