The number of people unemployed in the Albemarle fell by more than 500 in March, lowering the five-county region’s average jobless rate to below 5% for the first time since the pandemic began more than a year ago.

The number of people in the five-county region’s workforce, however, decreased in March by 270 to 45,548, down from 45,818 in February.

According to the N.C. Department of Commerce’s county-level data released last week, 2,152 residents were unemployed in Pasquotank, Currituck, Camden, Perquimans and Chowan counties in March. That compares to 2,660 who filed unemployment claims in February.

Statewide, the number of people seeking jobless benefits decreased in March for the sixth straight month, falling by more than 50,300, dropping to 229,665 and lowering the state’s not-seasonally adjusted employment rate to 4.6 percent. That’s only .6 percent more than in March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic was declared.

The state’s labor force, meanwhile, increased by 41,178 in March to 4.76 million.

According to the Commerce data, all five area counties reported decreases in the numbers of unemployed persons in March, with Pasquotank and Currituck responsible for more than 70 percent of the decrease.

Camden and Currituck continued to be the only counties in the area with jobless rates lower than the state rate. They also continued to post the lowest jobless rates in the area, with Camden’s falling to 3.6 percent and Currituck’s to 4.4 percent. Camden’s rate was the state’s fourth lowest in March, behind Orange, Watauga and Chatham counties. Currituck’s was the state’s 41st lowest.

Pasquotank and Chowan both recorded the area’s largest jobless drop by percentage in March, a full 1.1 percent. Pasquotank’s 5.2 percent jobless rate last month was also only .6 percent more than a year ago when its March 2020 rate was 4.6 percent. Chowan’s 4.8 percent rate in March likewise was only .6 percent more than its March 2020 rate of 4.2 percent.

Elizabeth City’s March unemployment rate, meanwhile, didn’t fall quite as far as Pasquotank’s, dipping by only 1 percent. At 4.9 percent, however, it was .3 percent lower than the county’s March rate. Elizabeth City’s jobless rate in March also was only .4 percent more than in March 2020, when its rate was 4.5 percent.

Currituck and Perquimans both recorded the area’s second-largest jobless drop by percentage, 1 percent. Currituck’s 4.4 percent jobless rate last month was only .6 percent more than its March 2020 rate of 3.8 percent. Perquimans’ 4.9 percent rate was only .1 percent more than its March 2020 rate of 5 percent.

Camden recorded the area’s lowest unemployment drop by percentage, .7 percent. Its 3.6 percent jobless rate was .2 percent better, however, than its March 2020 rate of 3.8 percent — the only county in the area with a better March 2021 rate than a March 2020 rate.

Pasquotank reported the area’s largest numerical decrease in jobless claims in March: 195. Its number of residents filing unemployment claims dropped to 868. Its workforce, however, decreased by 57 persons to 16,593.

Currituck reported the area’s second-largest numerical decrease in jobless claims in March: 162. Its number of residents filing unemployment claims dropped to 610. Its workforce also declined, slipping from 14,071 to 13,928, an area-high 143 workers.

Chowan reported 269 jobless claims in March, 64 fewer than in February. However, its workforce also declined by 48 to 5,555.

Perquimans reported 237 jobless claims in March, 53 fewer than in February. Its workforce also fell, slipping by 27 workers to 4,869.

Camden reported 34 fewer jobless claims in March — 168 — than in February. Its workforce was the only one in the five counties to increase in March, rising by five to 4,603.

According to the Commerce Department, unemployment fell in all 100 counties in March. In addition, 69 counties — including Camden, Currituck, Chowan and Perquimans — reported rates of 5 percent or lower. By comparison, only 26 counties reported a rate of 5 percent or lower in February.

Also, no county had a jobless rate of 10 percent or more in March. By comparison three counties — Dare, Hyde and Scotland — reported rates that high in February.