After claiming the dubious distinction of North Carolina’s sixth highest unemployment rate in the month of February, Ashe County bounced back in March with a three point decline in the county’s unemployment rate, falling to 12.2 percent, according to data released by the N.C. Department of Commerce last week.
The decrease in unemployment is the first improvement in Ashe County in three months.
“Unemployment rates were down in nearly every county in March,” said N.C. Department of Commerce Deputy Secretary Dale Carroll. “Over-the-year numbers show a positive downward trend as we continue to focus on supporting employees by growing jobs in North Carolina. We offer job search assistance, resume writing, and many other programs at our employment service offices statewide for citizens in the job market.”
Down from February’s 15.2 percent unemployment rate, the improvement was the second fastest in the state, behind only Dare County. The coastal county’s unemployment rate fell to 15.3 percent in March, from February’s 19.1 percent, a 3.8 percent decline in the unemployment rate.
Ashe County also showed year-over-year improvement, at 12.2 percent in March 2012 from 13.3 percent in March 2011, a 1.1 percent improvement.
Across the state, Ashe joined 97 other counties with falling unemployment rates. The rate increased in only two counties, Greene and Wilson.
Much of the state also showed year-over-year improvement, as 85 counties had lower unemployment rates than March 2011. Fourteen NC counties had increased unemployment rates over the year, with one remaining steady.
Thirty-five counties were at, or below, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 9.6 percent. Unemployment rates also decreased in all 14 of the state’s Metropolitan Statistical areas.
In March, the state added 14,122 workers, bringing the total number of workers employed (seasonally adjusted) to 4,197,446. The number of unemployed declined by 26,890 to 444,977. Year-over-year the number of employed grew by 44,443; the number of unemployed decreased by 34,823.
Ashe County’s labor force contracted between February and March however, falling to 11,604 from February’s 11,831. The number of unemployed in the county also decreased, falling to 1,418 from 1,800 in February.
The seven counties with the lowest unemployment rates are Orange, at 6 percent, Gates, at 7.2 percent, Henderson, at 7.3 percent, Durham, 7.6 percent, Wake, at 7.6 percent, Buncombe, at 7.7 percent, and Polk at 7.8 percent.
The seven counties with the highest unemployment rates are Graham, at 18.5 percent, Scotland, at 16.8 percent, Swain, at 16.7 percent, Dare, at 15.3 percent, Rutherford, at 14.2 percent, Edgecombe, at 14.2 percent, and Hyde, at 13.6 percent.
Of Ashe County’s neighbors, Watauga County’s unemployment rate fell to 8.9 percent from 9.1 percent in February. Wilkes County’s unemployment rate fell to 11.1 percent from 11.9 percent, Avery County fell to 12.3 percent from 13.1 percent, and Alleghany County’s unemployment rate fell to 12.4 percent from 14.1 percent in February.
In Ashe County, the unemployment benefits paid to residents over the past 12 months (March 2011-March 2012) were $10,110,410. Alleghany County received $3,694,415, Avery County received $5,759,255, Watauga County received $9,964,706, and Wilkes County received $23,580,346.
The N.C. DES’s own Job Connector website lists 249 jobs available in Ashe, Alleghany, Avery, Watauga, and Wilkes Counties. The Job Connector website can be accessed by going to ncesc.com, click on individual services in the menu at left, then select “Find jobs with NC Job Connector.” From there, applicants can choose “Preview Job Listings,” where up to two counties at a time can be selected to search for available positions.