Just two months after claiming North Carolina’s sixth highest unemployment rate in the month of February, Ashe County continued consecutive months of improving unemployment, falling to 12.1 percent, according to data released by the N.C. Department of Commerce on May 25.
The unemployment rate fell to 12.1 percent in April 2012, from 12.2 percent in March, a .1 percent decrease. Year-over-year numbers, however, were worse as county unemployment increased .5 percent from 11.6 percent in April 2011.
Unemployment rates fell in 93 of North Carolina’s 100 counties in April, increased in three and remained the same in four. When compared to the same month last year, unemployment rates declined in 88 counties, increased in 11 and remained the same in one.
Statewide, the unemployment rate fell to 9.1 percent in April, from 9.6 percent in March. Over-the-year numbers also showed a .9 percent improvement, from 10 percent in April 2011.
“Rates continued to drop in April,” said N.C. Department of Commerce Deputy Secretary Dale Carroll. “Looking at over-the-year numbers, most of North Carolina’s counties have lower unemployment rates which is certainly positive. Throughout the state, our employment services offices assist those looking to find work with various programs and job search assistance. We are committed to both citizens and employers in getting North Carolinians back to work.”
Thirty-two North Carolina counties were at or below the state’s (not seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate of 9.1 percent. For the second consecutive month, unemployment rates decreased in all 14 Metropolitan Statistical Areas.
The number of workers employed (not seasonally adjusted) increased in April by 14,542 to 4,212,226, while the number of unemployed decreased by 24,714 to 421,197. Since April 2011, the number of workers unemployed decreased to 42,802, while those employed increased 35,770.
The seven NC counties with the highest unemployment rates are Scotland at 17.4 percent, Graham at 16.7 percent, Swain at 13.6 percent, Edgecombe at 13.4 percent, Rutherford at 13.4 percent, Robeson at 12.7 percent, Vance at 12.7 percent, Halifax at 12.6 percent, and Richmond at 12.6 percent.
The seven NC counties with the lowest unemployment rates are Currituck at 5.3 percent, Orange at 5.8 percent, Henderson at 7 percent, Gates at 7.1 percent, Camden at 7.2 percent, Wake at 7.2 percent, Buncombe at 7.3 percent, Chatham at 7.3 percent, and Durham at 7.4 percent.
According to the Department of Commerce, Ashe County’s labor force also increased to 12,149 from March’s 11,604, which means an additional 545 county residents became available to work in April. At the same time, the number of unemployed increased in Ashe County to 1,466 from March’s 1,418, an increase of 48 county residents looking for work.
Of Ashe County’s neighbors, Watauga County’s unemployment fell to 8.3 percent from 8.9 percent in March. Wilkes County’s unemployment fell to 10.6 percent from March’s 11.1 percent, Avery County fell to 11.7 percent from 12.4 percent, and Alleghany County’s unemployment fell to 11.2 percent from 12.3 percent.
Ashe County is the only high country county with a higher unemployment rate than a year ago. Wilkes County’s unemployment rate, 1.5 percent lower than April 2011, showed the most improvement from a year ago, followed by Alleghany County’s .7 percent improvement, Watauga County’s .5 percent improvement, and Avery County’s .4 percent improvement.
In Ashe County, the unemployment benefits paid to residents over the past 12 months (April 2011-April 2012) were $10,024,408. Alleghany County received $3,634,002, Avery County received $5,800,130, Watauga County received $9,827,266, and Wilkes County received $23,063,514.
As of Saturday, May 26, The N.C. DES’s own Job Connector website lists 238 positions 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.” Applicants can choose “Preview Job Listings,” where up to two counties at a time can be selected to search for available positions.