Despite a general downward trend, Ashe County’s unemployment rate for August increased for the first time since January.
According to the most recent estimate by the North Carolina Department of Employment Security, Ashe’s unemployment rate for August is at 11 percent, or 1,331 residents out of work. August’s unemployment rate is up 0.1 percent since July, and down 0.3 percent from last August.
According to Larry Parker, an official with the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Labor and Economic Analysis Division, the labor force grew in August, increasing the number of those unemployed by 18 people since July. However, there are 82 fewer people unemployed since this time last year. Ashe County’s labor force is comprised of 12,146 people out of the states total labor force of 4,671,184.
When asked if Ashe county residents should be concerned about the increase in the unemployment rate, Parker said that a fluctuation can be expected, and will change seasonally. Because of Ashe County’s “very small labor force… minor changes can affect unemployment rates,” said Parker.
The NCDES’s estimates show 72 of North Carolina’s 100 counties saw decreases in their unemployment rates while 18 faced increases and 10 saw no change. Ashe’s neighboring counties have all seen unemployment decreases since July with Alleghany down 0.3 percent, Watauga down 0.5 percent, and Wilkes down 0.1 percent. Watauga is one of North Carolina’s 39 counties at or below the state’s not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 9.7 percent with a rate of 8.3 percent, but Alleghany and Wilkes are above the states rate with rates of 10.1 percent and 11 percent, respectively.
Ashe County’s jobless population drew $8,963,370 in benefits over the past year, a fraction of the $3,124,052,503 paid statewide. A total of $2,979,267 in benefits was paid in Alleghany, $19,548,075 in Wilkes, and in $8,713,111 in Watauga. These figures reflect a total of all programs as reported by the DES.
Over the past six months the state’s not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has followed a wave pattern, rising and falling with the seasons. In March, the rate was 9.7 percent, falling to 9.4 percent in April, and then steadily climbing to 9.9 percent in June and July, only to fall back to 9.7 percent in August. Ashe County’s unemployment rate exhibited a different pattern, falling at intervals from 12.2 percent in March to 10.9 percent in July, and nudging back up to 11 percent in August.
Across the state, one can observe quite a range of rates from county to county: Currituck County had the state’s lowest unemployment rate in August at 4.7 percent, and Scotland County had the highest unemployment rate at 17.2 percent according to data from the DES.