The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

March 29, 2013

County unemployment rate rises

By Jason O'Boyd, Staff Writer
The Randolph Guide

Friday, March 29, 2013 — If one believes the national pundits, the economy is headed in the right direction. But the numbers statewide and especially in Stanly County tell a much different story.

Unemployment rates for all 100 of North Carolina’s counties increased from December to January, according to figures released by the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Labor and Economic Analysis Division. The state unemployment rate jumped to 10.2 percent, up from 9.4 percent in December. The statewide rate was 10.1 percent this time last year.

Stanly County’s unemployment rate is in line with the state numbers. The unemployment rate here jumped from 9.3 percent in December to 10.1.

“The increase in the employment numbers certainly can be attributed to seasonal employment as it comes to an end. Those numbers will increase in January because of that,” said Donnie Mann, acting manager of the Division of Workforce Solutions.

“It’s still a bit of a struggle, but the numbers hopefully will drop some in Stanly County. That’s a good sign in a slow recovery in the local economy.”

While the monthly number is lower than the 10.5 percent in January 2012, it’s still discouraging to the 3,101 unemployed in the county. A total of 30,708 are in the county’s labor force, according to the statewide numbers.

“The rate is up in all 100 counties this month, but that’s not unusual. This time last year, we had 95 (counties) at this time,” said Larry Parker, acting public information director for the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Division of Employment Security.

“You’re going to have a lot of retail loss and then they let go some professional services and some state education and government jobs went away. But those typically happen. The losses are spread out in January and that’s why you see that.”

A slight ray of hope could come from the national numbers released March 13 from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unemployment nationally went from 7.8 in December to 7.9 in January but fell to 7.7 in February. The rate of unemployed across the nation was 8.3 percent last February.  

“We’ll wait and see if it follows nationally. There’s not too much to look at, at this point. When you look where everybody is at, it’s mostly static in January," Parker said.

“It just happened to be a month where we see an increase and that was the case in all 100 counties.”

The number of workers employed (not seasonally adjusted) decreased statewide in January by 30,998 to 4,255,318 while those unemployed rose 37,412 to 482,822.

Among micropolitan cities in the state, Albemarle is actually doing pretty good compared to places such as Laurinburg (17.8 percent), Lincolnton (10.8), Thomas-ville-Lexington (10.7) and Salisbury (10.3). Among the 26 micropolitan cities in the state, only Boone (9.5) and Southern Pines-Pinehurst (10.1) have lower rates.

All 14 of the state’s metro areas experienced rate increases, including the area that includes Charlotte, Gastonia and Rock Hill, S.C. That rate went from 9.4 to 10.0.

Among counties around Stanly County, Cabarrus is at 9.4 percent followed by Union (8.6), Anson (12.8), Montgomery (11.1), Davidson (10.7) and Richmond (13.6).

A total of 27 counties in the state are at or above Stanly County’s 10.1 percent.

“There’s no crystal ball and no way to predict what the numbers will do. A lot of areas like coastal, this is traditional,” Parker said.

“They have a higher unemployment rate in the winter and as spring comes and tourists come, the rate drops. Usually the best measure is where we were a year ago.

“We had 30 counties that had lower unemployment rates this time last year and 63 have increased, but not by much, and seven have not changed.”

So as the weather warms up, there’s hope the unemployment numbers will decrease both here and across the state.

“We do see a slight increase as the weather warms up and the construction field picks up at that time, generally. We hope to see an increase to see people return to the work force,” Mann said.