The cruelest month: April sees rise in statewide unemployment

Since December 2007, North Carolina’s unemployment rate (then 4.7 percent) has been increasing steadily. For April, the state’s rate hit 5.4 percent, according to the latest statistics from the N.C. Employment Security Commission. The national average is presently 5.0 percent.

“While unemployment has slightly outpaced employment in 2008, we anticipate the upcoming traditionally busy tourism season will help the state’s employment picture,” said ESC Chairman Harry E. Payne Jr. in a release.

“While North Carolina is not immune from national trends, particularly the increased price of gasoline, new job announcements and our family-friendly vacation areas should help our employment outlook,” Payne said optimistically.

Note: The release doesn’t state what the average local and state wages are right now for relatively low-paying tourism-based jobs, a dominant sector of WNC’s economy. The minimum hourly “living wage” necessary to meet basic individual needs in the Asheville-Buncombe area at present is $11.35 an hour, excluding benefits, according to West Asheville-based Just Economics.

Overall, employment increased by 3,306 workers to 4,310,425, according to the ESC. Seasonally adjusted unemployment increased by 7,882 workers, to 244,884. Since April of last year, unemployment has increased by 32,023 people. The labor force, over the year, has increased by 47,664 people. The state unemployment rate in April 2007 was 4.7 percent.

However, while overall, non-seasonally adjusted employment saw 3,306 workers gain jobs in April, 7,882 previously employed people lost their jobs last month across the state.

Meanwhile, manufacturing also took a slight hit in April. Average hourly earnings in that sector declined to $15.29 from $15.35 in March, while average weekly hours worked also decreased, from 41.1 to 40.5.

Seasonally adjusted, total non-farm industry employment, as gathered through the monthly establishment survey, decreased by 14,700 jobs in April and has increased by 45,900 since April 2007 —- to 4,168,400. The largest over-the-month increase occurred in educational and health services (+500). The largest decrease was in manufacturing (-4,200).

The next unemployment update is scheduled for Friday, May 23, when the county and Metropolitan Statistical Area unemployment rates for the
month of April will be released.

— Hal L. Millard, staff writer


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