Five of the seven High Country counties—Alleghany (12.4 percent), Ashe (12.4 percent), Mitchell (12.9 percent), Wilkes (13 percent) and Yancey (12.1 percent)—posted double-digit unemployment percentages in May, and unemployment in all of these counties was higher than the statewide record-setting average in May of 11.1 percent.
In the two single-digit High Country counties, Watauga County’s 7.9 percent May unemployment rate was an increase from April’s 7.5, but Avery County’s 9.4 percent May rate was a decrease from April’s 10.2 percent.
Overall, the High Country posted an unemployment rate of 11.2 percent in May.
But what does that mean exactly? Percentages can be hard to visualize in concrete terms; visualizing people is easier. That 11.2 percent translates into 10,912 unemployed people in the seven High Country counties, with the highest numbers in the two most populous counties: Wilkes has 3,995 people out of work and Watauga has 1,864.
Despite these dismal numbers, funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act allocated to the High Country region are available to help some of these people through the Workforce Investment Act.
“We have added staff in all seven JobLink Career Centers to help the increased number of customers we can serve with Recovery Act funding,” said Workforce Development Director Carole Coates. “The federal funding we’ve received effectively doubles our annual allocation, and between now and June 2010, we anticipate being able to serve an additional 660 adults by providing career counseling and paying for short-term training in a number of high-demand fields.”
As of June 30, 137 adults throughout the High Country region were receiving services funded by Recovery Act money. That number is in addition to the 161 young people enrolled in NC Summer Jobs, another Recovery Act-funded initiative.
“In addition to our one-on-one work in the local JobLink Career Centers, we have also created and launched a recovery-focused website called RecoveryInTheHighCountry.com,” Coates continued. “This valuable and hyperlocal site is loaded with resources for career exploration, job search, training opportunities, entrepreneurship, layoff survival and money management. The website does a great job too of explaining how the Recovery Act benefits just about everyone in the region—working or not—and it is updated several times each week with economic- and stimulus-related news. We are extremely proud of the site and encourage everyone in the region to use this excellent collection of resources.”
To find out more about Recovery Act-funded Workforce Investment Act services, call the JobLink Career Center in your county. For a list of centers, along with their addresses and phone numbers, click to the High Country Workforce Development Board website at www.highcountrywdb.com.