Local, state employment picture looks rosy

Those danged kids … if it weren’t for graduating high schoolers and collegians, the newly released local and state unemployment figures for May (the latest available) would have been better, says Harry Payne, chairman of the N.C. Employment Security Commisssion.

“We typically experience an increase in the labor force in May due to students entering the labor,” Payne said in a news release. “As the state’s busy tourism season gears up, now is the time when workers go out looking for those summer jobs.”

The latest job figures show that 75 of the state’s 100 counties saw their unemployment rates rise in May — including Buncombe County, whose rate increased to 3.6 percent in May over April’s 3.3 percent. The Asheville metro area, which includes Asheville-Buncombe and surrounding counties, notched a 3.7 percent unemployment rate.

Still sound low? Well, it is. In fact, it’s the second-lowest in the state, after the Raleigh metro area, which has just 3.6 percent unemployment, and well below the state and national averages.

Statewide, the unemployment rate held steady at 4.8 percent — just slightly more than the nationwide figure of 4.5 percent.

Meanwhile, the latest local-job-market analysis from the nationwide firm Manpower, Inc. notes that surveys of local employers indicate that half plan to expand their workforce between now and September — more than any other metropolitan area in the state. That’s compared to 43 percent who expect to maintain the status quo, and 7 percent who anticipate reducing their workforces.

“[Local] employers are much more confident about hiring than they were a year ago when 27 percent of companies surveyed planned to add staff and 10 percent anticipated a reduction in payrolls,” according to Manpower spokesperson Susan Hopkins.

For the coming quarter, job prospects appear best in Non-Durable Goods Manufacturing, Wholesale/Retail Trade, and Education and Services. Meanwhile, employers in Durable Goods Manufacturing voiced mixed hiring intentions, while the local Construction, Transportation/Public Utilities, Finance/Insurance/Real Estate and Public Administration sector employers said they expected their payrolls to remain unchanged.

— Hal L. Millard, staff writer

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