Unemployment in both the Asheville metropolitan area and Buncombe County rose in May, according to state figures that show unemployment ticking up to 9.2 percent for the metro area and 8.8 percent for the county.
Figures released by the Employment Security Commission of North Carolina show unemployment rising from 9.0 to 9.2 percent in the Asheville metropolitan area — a state designation that includes Buncombe, Madison, Henderson and Haywood counties — with 18,996 people unemployed. Buncombe County fared a little better, with 8.8 percent of the labor force unemployed, up from 8.6 in April. The state figures show 10,611 unemployed in Buncombe.
While the numbers showed a 5.1 percent increase in jobs in the Leisure and Hospitality sector (an important industry in the Asheville area, especially in summer) and small increases in the transport and government sectors, manufacturing and professional jobs continued to decline, by .5 and .7 percent respectively. So far this year, the ESC estimates the area’s lost around 8,100 jobs, with the manufacturing, construction and professional fields taking the biggest hits.
However, the Asheville area still seems better off than the state as a whole, which had 11.1 percent unemployment in May. The highest unemployment rate occurred in March, when the rate hit 9.6. percent for the metropolitan area and 9 percent in the county.
“There’s usually a small increase [in unemployment] around this time of the year as college students get out into the labor market,” ESC spokesperson Larry Parker told Xpress. “But on top of that, you’re still having some lingering layoffs, and those are driving it up, though things are better than they were earlier this year.”
Asheville hasn’t seen unemployment rates like this since the ESC began using its current measurements in 1990. Before this year, the highest recorded unemployment rate for the Asheville area was 7.8 percent, recorded in January 1992.
“Overall, most counties haven’t seen rates like these since 1983,” Parker noted.
The area’s not alone in facing the effects of economic upheaval. Eighty-two counties in the state showed unemployment increases, while neighboring McDowell County has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state, at 16.5 percent.
— David Forbes, staff writer