Area employment picture brightens a wee bit

For months, the area’s unemployment rate has been spiking. Add that to the local gas crisis and the supposed implosion of the U.S. economy (at least the financial sector), and it’s enough to majorly harsh your economic mellow. Well, there’s a glimmer of good news in the latest local job stats.

For the first time in months, the Asheville metro area (Buncombe, Henderson, Haywood and Madison counties) saw the unemployment rate hold steady in August, at 5.5 percent, according to statistics released Sept. 26 by the N.C. Employment Security Commission.

Of the four counties in the metro area, only Henderson in August saw an unemployment rate increase over July, going from 5.4 percent to 6.2 percent.

Statewide, however, the news was not so good. The overall unemployment rate rose slightly from 6.6 percent to 6.9 percent. It is the highest the rate has been since January 2002, when the rate was 7 percent.

“While some of the employment loss can be attributed to students returning to school, we know the decline in the national economy is having an impact on North Carolina’s employment picture,” said ESC Chairman Harry E. Payne Jr., in response to the statewide figures. “We are experiencing a very tight job market and we have a lot of job seekers. While job orders have varied depending on the location around the state, we are still hearing from employers who need workers.”

In August, unemployment rates decreased in 58 of North Carolina’s 100 counties. Rates increased in 33 counties and remained the same in nine.

“While unemployment rates improved in many counties, we need to keep in mind that the slowdown in the national economy is having its impact on North Carolina,” said Payne. “While fuel and energy price increases are major factors in our economy, we know that there are employers around North Carolina that continue to look for workers, based on orders we receive in our offices around the state.”

— Hal L. Millard, staff writer


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