Results from the North Carolina Employment Security Commission indicate that Ashe County’s unemployment rate increased slightly during the month of July.
The county’s unemployment rate was 10.8 in July, a 0.1 change from the June rate of 10.7 percent. Total labor force and employment figures countywide show 11,380 employed citizens. Ashe was one of 29 counties that saw an increase in unemployment rates while 59 counties saw a decrease in their respective unemployment rates during the month of July and 12 counties remained the same.
Ashe is also one of 48 counties in North Carolina that are at or below the state’s unadjusted unemployment rate of 11.1 percent. Including Ashe, 68 other counties statewide have employment rates at or above 10 percent for the month of July.
Local ESC officials believe that a dwindling home construction industry and plant closures in 2008 exacerbated the diminishing work force in Ashe, preventing the unemployment rate from noticeably decreasing like it had in 59 counties statewide over the past month.
“We’re actually holding steady at that 10.8, 10.7 rate for sometime,” ESC Branch Manager Louis Burge said. “Part of that is because of the plant closures that took place last year and the fact that the construction industry in Ashe is not as busy as it once was because of the economy. There are not as many home start ups and work has sort of slowed down for that industry.
“The fact that several small businesses have gone out this year has also affected that rate.”
Although the county has been able to remain below the state’s unadjusted unemployment rate, Borges explained that it may be some time before unemployment figures dip below the 10 percent line.
“There’s no indication of further decrease in that rate,” Borges said. “I don’t know of anything projected to come into the county that would bring additional jobs.”
Neighboring Watauga County has one of the state’s lower unemployment rates at 7.7 percent and saw a 0.3 decrease from June’s reported rate of 8 percent.
“Historically they (Watauga) have always had lower unemployment figures than surrounding counties,” Borges said. “There are just more jobs in general in Watauga County as well as more service industry jobs.”
Ashe County is still fairing better than Wilkes County which saw its numbers remain the same at 13.2 percent. Alleghany County’s unemployment rate decreased from 11.7 to 11.3 percent from June to July. Scotland County had the state’s highest unemployment rate, 17.1 percent, while Hyde and Currituck counties tied with the state’s lowest rate of 5.5 percent.
In terms of paid Unemployment Insurance benefits, the county has received $11,759,637 between August 2008 and July 2009. This means Ashe is in the bottom twentieth percentile of total benefits that North Carolina counties have received.
For more information on state unemployment figures and county-by-county breakdown of numbers, visit www.ncesc.com.