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Jobless rates down, though eastern areas trailing NC

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Even though unemployment rates remain higher in Perquimans, Pasquotank and Chowan counties than the statewide average, most of the Albemarle region experienced down-ticks in June, the latest figures from N.C. Commerce officials shows.

Perquimans posted a June jobless rate of 5.4 percent, followed by Pasquotank and Chowan counties at 5.2 percent each. The rates in Perquimans and Pasquotank were a decrease of a tenth of a percent compared to May, while the rate in Chowan was a decrease of two-tenths of a percent.

Statewide, the jobless rate in June was 4.2 percent, which was down a tenth of a percent from May. Buncombe County posted the lowest jobless rate in North Carolina in June, at 3.2 percent.

N.C. Commerce officials, in releasing data last week, said the 4.2 percent overall is the lowest preliminary jobless level for the state since 2000.

The officials emphasized the unemployment rate has dropped a percentage point since December, which represents the fastest six-month decline since a time period from August 2013 to February 2014.

The officials also estimated about 27,800 new jobs were added the past two months in North Carolina — more than any other two-month period since the spring of 2014.

The officials were particularly upbeat in releasing the June jobless figures, saying they believe North Carolina appears to be in good shape heading into the second half of the year.

Meantime, four Albemarle region counties, Camden, Currituck, Dare and Gates, were either below, in line with or just above the June jobless rate for North Carolina.

Dare and Currituck each posted June jobless rates of 4 percent. That marked a tenth of a percent decrease for Dare and a four-tenths of a percent decrease for Currituck compared to May.

Although not stated in the N.C. Commerce report, Dare and Currituck, as beach counties, traditionally have lower jobless rates in the midst of the tourist season. 

Gates posted a June jobless rate of 4.2 percent, which was three-tenths of a percent decrease compared to May.

Only one county in The Daily Advance's service area, Camden, experienced an unemployment rate increase. Camden posted a June rate of 4.3 percent, which was up a tenth of a percent compared to May.

Despite the upbeat tone from N.C. Commerce officials on Wednesday about the statewide figures, at least one observer is concerned that while North Carolina's unemployment rate has improved, the eastern part of the state lags behind.

William Munn, a policy analyst for the Budget and Tax Center, noted the Rocky Mount, Fayetteville, Greenville, Goldsboro, Jacksonville and New Bern areas all have unemployment rates higher than the state average. In fact, Munn said, the rates in those cities and their surrounding areas comprise six of the top seven core areas reporting the highest unemployment.

“Cities have long served as commercial hubs for regional economic growth. If cities in eastern North Carolina are struggling with persistently high unemployment, it is no wonder the broader region is hurting so badly,” Munn said in a statement on Wednesday. 

The situation also does not look good for counties near or extending east of the Interstate 95 corridor.

Munn on Wednesday noted Scotland, Edgecombe, Wilson, Halifax, Warren, Hyde, Robeson, Nash, Washington and Northampton counties comprised the top 10 counties posting North Carolina's highest unemployment rates for June.

He said he believes that is because these counties have not sufficiently recovered from the Great Recession of December 2007 to June 2009 or from Hurricane Matthew this past October.

The Budget and Tax Center is a project of the N.C. Justice Center, which is a research and advocacy organization.

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