Jobless rate rises in area


Staff Writer

Thursday, June 8, 2017

While North Carolina’s unemployment rate continues to decline, the job market continues to struggle throughout Eastern North Carolina, including the Twin Counties.

According to the N.C. Justice Center, a left-leaning research and advocacy organization, 20 counties in Eastern North Carolina have unemployment rates at least a full percentage point higher than the state average of 4.3 percent, including Nash and Edgecombe counties. 

William Munn, policy analyst for the N.C. Justice Center’s Budget and Tax Center, said the perception that North Carolina is experiencing a gradual recovery stems from economic activity in the state’s urban counties. Patrick McHugh, economic analyst for the Budget and Tax Center, said the five largest counties in the state — Durham, Mecklenburg, Forsyth, Guilford and Wake — have accounted for almost 60 percent of the jobs created since the recovery began, or 322,691 jobs out of 547,778.

McHugh added that has left 225,087 jobs for the other 95 counties, which he said is a clear sign that most places in North Carolina haven’t prospered from the latest round of state tax cuts.

“The epicenter of North Carolina’s recovery seems to run along Interstate 40 and 85, but it has bypassed the state’s 95 corridor,” Munn said. “In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, a robust state and federal investment oriented toward employing local residents and contracting with local businesses could go a long way to driving improvements in Eastern North Carolina and for the state as a whole.”

Unemployment rates decreased in 97 of North Carolina’s counties in April except in Nash, Edgecombe and Wilson counties. Nash County rose from 6.1 percent in March to 6.3 percent in April, while Edgecombe County increased to 7.9 in April from 7.6 in March and Wilson went up to 7.5 percent in April from 7.1 percent in March. 

The jobless rate in the Rocky Mount Metropolitan Statistical Area, which consists of Nash and Edgecombe counties, increased to 6.8 percent in April from 6.6 percent in March. The Rocky Mount MSA continues to have the highest unemployment rate among the 15 metro areas, while Wilson’s 7.5 percent is the highest among micropolitan statistical areas.

The Rocky Mount-Wilson-Roanoke Rapids region has the highest combined statistical area at 7.0 percent in April, which is much higher than Asheville-Brevard’s rate at 3.4 percent and Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill’s rate at 3.8 percent. Over-the-month employment change shows a net industry employment decrease of 900 nonfarm jobs in Rocky Mount.

State officials said it’s important to note that employment estimates are subject to large seasonal patterns, so it’s advisable to focus on the over-the-year changes. Over-the-year employment change showed a loss of 800 nonfarm jobs in Rocky Mount.

Munn said slow economic growth in places like Rocky Mount and Wilson is a microcosm of what is taking place throughout Eastern North Carolina.

“In places like Nash and Wilson counties, unemployment remains above pre-recession levels,” Munn said. “Wilson County has almost 15 percent more unemployed residents than in December 2007. Beyond leveraging targeted investments to address the damage left by Hurricane Matthew, it’s clear that the state’s unemployment insurance system is failing counties with higher unemployment rates than the state average by tying the number of weeks to the state unemployment and not reflecting local labor market realities.”