Lose your job recently? Having a hard time finding a new one? Join the club.
The Labor Department reported April 3 that new applications filed for unemployment insurance jumped by a seasonally adjusted 38,000 to 407,000 for the week ending March 29. The increase left claims at their highest point since Sept. 17, 2005, following the blows of the devastating Gulf Coast hurricanes.
The nation’s unemployment rate, now at 4.8 percent, is expected to rise to 5 percent in March. The jobless rate could climb to 5.5 percent or higher by the end of this year, according to some analysts’ projections.
“This report supports the view that the jobs market is deteriorating toward recessionary conditions,” T.J. Marta, a fixed-income strategist at RBC Capital Markets, told the Associated Press.
While the nation as a whole is approaching 5 percent unemployment, the state is already there and the Asheville metro area, which includes Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson and Madison counties, is getting close. The metro unemployment in February was 4.4 percent, up from 4.2 percent the previous month. In December 2007, the local rate was 3.4 percent
Overall, employment statewide decreased in February by 19,662 to 4,306,216. Seasonally adjusted unemployment increased by 5,089 workers, to 226,447. Since this time last year, unemployment has increased by 22,866 workers. The labor force, over the year, has increased by 22,790 people. The state rate in February 2007 was 4.5 percent.
The ESC, which is often rosy in explaining away unemployment increases as merely seasonal fluctuations, acknowledged in its latest report that the worsening economy may be playing a part.
“Due to seasonal factors, we tend to experience rate increases this time of the year,” said ESC Chairman Harry E. Payne Jr. in a release. “In February, in 58 of the 72 counties that experienced an increase it was by three-tenths of a percentage point or less. These increases are likely due in part to seasonal fluctuations and the current economic situation.”
The ESC noted that in February, 81 of the state’s 100 counties had unemployment rates between 5 and 10 percent, compared with 75 counties in January. The number of counties with rates below 5 percent dropped to 18, compared to 22 in January. On a bright note, the number of counties with rates above 10 percent dropped to one from three in January. That unfortunate county is Hyde, with a whopping rate of 11.7 percent.
Unemployment rates in the state’s metropolitan statistical areas for February were:
• Asheville — 4.6 percent, up from 4.4 percent in January.
• Burlington — 5.7 percent, up from 5.5 percent.
• Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord NC-SC — 5.4 percent, no change.
• Durham — 4.3 percent, up from 4.1 percent.
• Fayetteville — 5.7 percent, up from 5.6 percent.
• Goldsboro — 5.1 percent, up from 4.9 percent.
• Greensboro-High Point — 5.5 percent, up from 5.4 percent.
• Greenville — 5.4 percent, up from 5.2 percent.
• Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton — 6.6 percent, no change.
• Jacksonville — 5.1 percent, up from 4.8 percent.
• Raleigh-Cary — 4.2 percent, up from 4.0 percent.
• Rocky Mount — 7.3 percent, up from 7.0 percent.
• Wilmington — 5.2 percent, no change.
• Winston-Salem — 5.2 percent, up from 5.0 percent.
— Hal L. Millard, staff writer