Jobless rate drops across area


Staff Writer

Monday, August 7, 2017

Labor figures from the N.C. Department of Commerce show the Twin Counties are among the 69 of 100 North Carolina counties where unemployment rates decreased in June.

Edgecombe County’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.3 percent in June from 7.8 percent in May. It was also down from 8.5 percent in June 2016. Nash County’s 6.0 percent unemployment rate is down from 6.2 percent in May and lower than the 6.7 percent in June 2016.

In addition to the counties’ rates, nine of the state’s 15 metropolitian statistical areas experienced declines in their unemployment rates. Rocky Mount’s 6.4 percent was a drop from 6.8 percent in May and 7.3 percent in June 2016. Also, the Rocky Mount metro area, which consists of Nash and Edgecombe counties, had an over-the-month net employment increase of 100 jobs added in June.

Nontheless, there are still some struggles in the local economy. The Rocky Mount metro are has lost 600 jobs over the year in net employment. In addition, Edgecombe County has the second-highest unemployment rate in the state. Although it continues to drop, Rocky Mount’s 6.4 percent unemployment rate remains the highest among the state’s metro areas. 

William Munn, policy analyst for the Budget and Tax Center of N.C. Justice Center, said Rocky Mount’s unemployment rates stand as an outlier among a group of cities with challenging economic indicators. Unemployment in metro Eastern North Carolina cities like Rocky Mount, Fayetteville, Greenville, Goldsboro, Jacksonville and New Bern all have unemployment rates at 6 percent or higher, which are all higher than the state average of 4.2 percent.

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

Rocky Mount-Wilson-Roanoke Rapids’ combined statistical area of 6.7 percent is the highest among combined regional areas as well. Wilson’s 7.3 percent unemployment rate is the second highest among micropolitan areas, which is urban cores with at least 10,000 but less than 50,000 people. Roanoke Rapid’s 6.7 percent unemployment rate is third.

“Recognizing how Eastern North Carolina metropolitan statistical areas support and are supported by micropolitan statisical areas should be a priority for lawmakers,” Munn said. “Rocky Mount’s prosperity is important to Wilson and Roanoke Rapids. Instead of expending resources to argue an urban and rural divide, focusing on a strategy that highlights how both regions prosper concurrently is needed.”