The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

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September 4, 2013

Unemployment rate slightly dips

Wednesday, September 4, 2013 — After two months of unexpected bad news on the job front, the July numbers released Wednesday by the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Labor and Economic Analysis Division brought a sigh of relief to what some predicted to be a pretty good summer for jobs.

Unemployment dropped in 81 of 100 counties in the state, ending a span of two straight months where the numbers rose instead of dropped, a trend that’s usually the case during summer months. The state unemployment rate dropped from 9.3 percent to 9.1 in July. For Stanly County, the rate went from 8.9 to 8.8.

“I think it is a trend in the right direction. In May and June, statewide the unemployment rate increased in most counties. In July it decreased in most counties. It seemed to be a trend in most parts of the state, said Donnie Mann, head of the Division of Workforce Employment in the county.

This is not the first time unemployment numbers actually rose during the period between May-August. From May-July 2011, unemployment rose from 11.1 to 12.2. But nine straight months of declining jobless numbers brought the figure to 9.1 percent in April 2012.

Then the bottom fell out again. May 2012 saw unemployment at 9.7 percent and even higher, 10.2, the following month. Those numbers eventually fell to as low as 8.4 percent in April of this year.

Then they went up again, from 8.8 in May to 8.9 in June.

“We have seen a slight increase in job orders, seems more like retail and clerical positions in July. Hopefully it’s a trend that will continue,” Mann said.

The number of employed in Stanly County went down slightly, from 30,742 in June to 30,292 in July. At the same time, the number of unemployed in the county decreased to its lowest level since April, currently at 2,660.

Another interesting fact about the decrease in July unemployment across the state is it comes on the heels of the state in late June becoming the first in the nation to implement cuts to unemployment benefits as well as the maximum number of weeks someone can receive unemployment funds.

At the time, that reportedly stripped federally funded checks from the state’s long-term jobless, around 71,000.

The move was made as a way of repaying Washington the $2.5 million that was borrowed to pay state unemployment claims that took off during the recession. It was also a measure taken to help balance the state’s budget.

“It may have actually encouraged people to intensify their job-search efforts, which may have led to more people returning to work. That would affect the unemployment rate and cause it to decrease,” Mann said.

“It’s hard to say that it had a direct effect but again, it may have encouraged people to intensify their efforts to obtain employment.”

Scotland County had the highest unemployment in the state for the second straight month, at 16.0 percent. Currituck County has the lowest rate in the state, at 5.3 percent.

Stanly County still ranks 33rd among the 100 counties in unemployment. Among Micropolitan statistical areas, Albemarle ranks sixth, ahead of Laurinburg (16.0 percent), Lumberton (13.3), Rockingham (11.9), Salisbury (9.3) and Thomasville-Lexington (9.6).

In neighboring counties, Stanly ranks ahead of Anson (11.4, 83rd worst in state), Richmond (11.9, 88th), Rowan (9.3, 49th), Davidson (9.6, 53rd) and Mecklenburg (9.5, 51st). Union (7.9, 20th) and Cabarrus (8.5, 30th) once again rank ahead of Stanly County.

Contact Jason O. Boyd at (704) 982-2121 or jason@stanlynewspress.com.

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