By Adam Orr
Ashe County made it three in row in the month of May as unemployment fell to 11.3 percent just three months after claiming North Carolina’s sixth highest unemployment rate in February, according to data released May 22, by the North Carolina Department of Commerce.
County unemployment declined .7 percent from April’s 12 percent, while year-over-year numbers also showed a .2 percent improvement, down from 11.5 percent in May 2011.
Across the rest of the state, unemployment rates rose in 76 of North Carolina’s 100 counties in May, fell in 21 and were unchanged in three. Compared to May 2011, however, unemployment rates declined in 88 counties, increased in eight, and remained the same in four.
“While rates were up in most counties for May, over-the-year, we see a positive downward trend,” said N.C. Department of Commerce Deputy Secretary Dale Carroll. “Rates were down in 88 counties across North Carolina since May of last year. Our focus remains on growing jobs across the state as several key job announcements have been made over the past several weeks. Our employment service offices are committed to working with employers to get job seekers back to work in North Carolina.”
North Carolina had 33 counties that were at or below the state’s not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 9.4 percent. Unemployment rates increased in 13 Metropolitan Statistical Areas and declined in one. The number of workers employed (not seasonally adjusted) increased in May by 11,632 to 4,223,768, while those unemployed rose 17,758 to 439,528. Since May 2011, the number of workers unemployed decreased 40,819, while those employed increased 35,027.
The seven counties with the highest unemployment rates are Scotland at 16.9 percent, Graham at 15.7 percent, Rutherford at 13.9 percent, Edgecombe at 13.6 percent, Vance at 13.5 percent, Wilson at 13 percent, Robeson at 12.9 percent, and Halifax at 12.8 percent.
The seven counties with the lowest unemployment rates are Currituck at 5.2 percent, Orange at 6.2 percent, Chatham at 7.1 percent, Gates at 7.1 percent, Henderson at 7.1 percent, Camden at 7.4 percent, Buncombe at 7.5 percent, and Wake at 7.5 percent.
Ashe County’s labor force increased in May to 12,275 from April’s 12,149, an increase of 126 county residents available for work. Since March 2012, Ashe County’s labor force has increased from 11,604 to 12,275, an increase of 671 Ashe County residents available for work, or a 5.7 percent increase. At the same time, the number of unemployed in Ashe County fell to 1,390 in May from April’s 1,418, a decrease of 28 county unemployed.
Of Ashe County’s neighbors, Watauga County’s unemployment fell to 8.2 percent from 8.3 percent in April. Wilkes County’s unemployment rate rose to 10.9 percent from 10.6 percent in April, while Alleghany County fell to 10.6 percent from 11.1 percent in April, and Avery County fell to 11.4 percent from 11.8 percent in April.
In Ashe County, the unemployment benefits paid to residents over the past 12 months (May 2011-May 2012) were $9,837,098. Alleghany County received $3,481,631, Avery County $5,735,106, Watauga County received $9,535,951, and Wilkes received $22,292,307.
As of Sunday, June 24, the N.C. DES’s own Job Connector website lists 283 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.