Local, state unemployment on the rise

Unemployment in the Asheville metro area shot up in January as the state’s overall unemployment rate also saw a rise, according to the latest stats from the N.C. Employment Security Commission.

Ever the optimist, ESC Chairman Harry E. Payne Jr. says there are mitigating circumstances behind the rise, which saw the state unemployment rate increase slightly from 4.7 percent to 4.9 percent, but saw the Asheville metro rate spike from 3.4 percent to 4.2 percent in January. (The metro area includes Buncombe, Haywood, Madison and Henderson counties.)

“Unemployment rates typically increase during this time of the year as seasonal weather slows down construction and other outdoor jobs. This is also the time when some workers leave part-time holiday season jobs,” Payne said in a release. “Since this time last year, more than 15,600 workers have found employment.”

The rise was not relegated to the Asheville area. Aside from Alexander County, unemployment rates increased in the remainder of the state’s 100 counties in January. All 14 metropolitan statistical areas experienced an increase in rates, too (see below). Further, 36 counties were at or below the state’s unadjusted unemployment rate of 5.3 percent.

Total county employment (not-seasonally adjusted) decreased in January by 23,633 workers from 4,296,326 to 4,272,693. Not-seasonally adjusted unemployment increased by 26,912 workers. The unemployment total in January was 220,598 compared with 211,910 in December 2007.

Orange County had the state’s lowest unemployment rate, at 3.4 percent, in January. Meanwhile, Hyde County had the highest unemployment rate, at 11.1 percent.

The five counties receiving the highest amount in unemployment insurance benefits in January were: Mecklenburg, $9.2 million; Wake, $5.7 million; Guilford, $4.3 million; Forsyth, $3.1 million; and Gaston, $2.6 million. In January, $99.4 million in benefits was paid to 117,820 individuals statewide, compared with $78.2 million to 93,176 individuals in December.

Unemployment rates in the metropolitan statistical areas for January were:

• Asheville — 4.4 percent, up from 3.5 percent in December.
• Burlington — 5.4 percent, up from 4.9 percent.
• Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord N.C.-S.C. — 5.3 percent, up from 4.8 percent.
• Durham — 4.1 percent, up from 3.7 percent.
• Fayetteville — 5.6 percent, up from 5.1 percent.
• Goldsboro — 4.9 percent, up from 4.6 percent.
• Greensboro-High Point — 5.4 percent, up from 4.8 percent.
• Greenville — 5.2 percent, up from 4.8 percent.
• Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton — 6.6 percent, up from 5.9 percent.
• Jacksonville — 4.8 percent, up from 4.3 percent.
• Raleigh-Cary — 4.0 percent, up from 3.5 percent.
• Rocky Mount — 7.0 percent, up from 6.3 percent.
• Wilmington — 5.1 percent, up from 4.4 percent.
• Winston-Salem — 4.9 percent, up from 4.4 percent.

— Hal L. Millard, staff writer

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