Local jobless rate holds steady


Staff Writer

Monday, July 3, 2017

Recent local unemployment figures from the N.C. Department of Commerce in May stayed mostly unchanged but still remained the highest in the state.

Edgecombe County’s 7.8 percent unemployment rate was a tad lower than the 7.9 percent in April and May 2016. Nash County’s 6.2 percent unemployment rate remained the same in April and in May 2016, while Rocky Mount’s metropolitian statistical area’s 6.8 percent unemployment rate was the same in April and 0.1 percent higher than the 6.7 percent in May of last year.

Figures from the North Carolina county labor market conditions show the Rocky Mount Metropolitan Statistical Area consisting of Nash and Edgecombe counties with a loss of 900 jobs in over-the-year employment, including a loss of 600 jobs over-the-year in manufacturing. William Munn, policy analyst for the Budget and Tax Ccenter of the left-leaning N.C. Justice Center, said the Rocky Mount metro area’s 6.8 percent unemployment rate is one of 23 regions in Eastern North Carolina with a much higher unemployment rate than the state’s average of 4.5 percent.

Munn added since 2007, several Eastern North Carolina counties, including Nash County, has seen unemployment rise, while nearby Wilson County has seen the largest increase at 1.7 percent. Rocky Mount’s metro area, whose labor force was 65,325 in May, has seen its labor force decline slightly since last year, including 7.2 percent of its labor force that has disappeared since December 2007, Munn said.

“That’s an alarming and compounding data point given the challenges in Nash and Edgecombe counties have endured from hurricane damage throughout the years,” he said. “If special attention in the form of sound public policy is not directed to the rural Eastern counties like the Rocky Mount area still struggling with high unemployment, then leadership is committing an entire region to generational underdevelopment and poverty.”

Munn added as another budget season draws to a close, it’s clear that a lack of a remedy for the state’s unemployment insurance system is failing counties like the Twin Counties with higher unemployment rates than the state average.  

“Tying the number of weeks people are eligible for unemployment insurance to the state unemployment rate without reflecting local labor market realities is a punishment to those who need it most,” he said.