Ashe County’s unemployment rate rose again in October to 11.2 percent, up from September’s figure of 10.2 percent, according to the N.C. Department of Commerce (DOC) Labor and Economic Analysis Division.
The increase follows a developing pattern of fluctuating jobless figures in Ashe County, with October’s rise reversing a decrease of .7 percent from August to September, according to state figures.
The DOC reports that of 12,979 people in the county’s labor force, 1,460 are looking for work.
But N.C. Division of Employment Security (DES) spokesman Larry Parker said that those figures don’t tell the whole story. “The number of people working has actually gone up,” he said, “but the number of people looking for work has also gone up,” which means more unemployment.
Joining the jobless ranks this winter are the roughly 150 United Chemicon employees scheduled for layoffs beginning in December.
Neighboring counties saw no significant job growth. Wilkes County’s jobless rate dropped just .1 percent, with Allegheny and Watauga counties holding at 8.8 percent and 7.3 percent, respectively.
Unemployment is down statewide and across the country. North Carolina’s seasonally-adjusted jobless rate for October is 8.8 percent, and a national average of 7.9 is reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Ashe County’s jobless uptick comes just weeks before federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) is slated to end on Dec. 29.
For week ending Nov. 24, 252 residents of Ashe County were receiving EUC benefits averaging $292 per week, Parker said. “That’s something like $74,000 out of Ashe County’s economy every week…people use that money at the grocery store.”
At the same time, an additional 311 Ashe Countians are collecting standard state-issued unemployment insurance, Parker said.
North Carolina currently owes the federal government $2.4 billion in jobless benefits. Chair of the N.C. House Revenue Laws Committee Julia Howard said increases in employer’s unemployment taxes, and cuts in unemployment insurance benefits will be recommended to the General Assembly on Wednesday as a solution to the fiscal quagmire.
“Everybody must share the pain,” said Howard.
North Carolina pays the highest jobless benefits in the southeast, Howard said.
If the committee’s recommendations become law, North Carolinians could see their maximum weekly benefits reduced from $539 to $350 – a 35 percent decrease – with first tier coverage shortened from 26 weeks to 20.