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Jobless rate dips in area

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The unemployment rate dropped slightly across the area in February.

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BY COREY DAVIS
Staff Writer

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The unemployment rate dropped in most counties in North Carolina in February as a PNC economic outlook reports business owners around the state are optimistic about the state economy, national economy and their own company’s prospects.

According to the N.C. Department of Commerce, 74 out of 100 counties witnessed a decrease in jobless rates, including the Twin Counties.

Edgecombe County’s unemployment rate in February was 8.2 percent, lower than the 8.4 percent rate in January. Nash County’s 6.0 percent jobless rate in February was a slight reduction from its 6.1 percent rate in January.

The Rocky Mount Metropolitian Statistical Area, which is a combination of Nash and Edgecombe counties’ rates, fell to a 6.8 percent jobless rate in February from 6.9 percent in January. 

The Twin Counties’ rates have also declined from year-to-year, but still rank higher than the state’s unemployment rate of 4.5 percent. Edgecombe County’s jobless rate is ranked 95th out of the state’s 100 counties, while Nash County’s rate is ranked 81st out of 100 counties.

The Rocky Mount metro area’s 6.8 percent in February remained the highest jobless rate among the state’s 15 metro area. Over the year, the Rocky Mount metro area has experienced the second largest net employment decline of 1,500 jobs over the year behind Winston-Salem, including 800 losses in manufacturing, according to county labor market statistics. The largest net employment increase over the year for the Rocky Mount metro area has been 300 job gains in trade, transportation and utilities’ sector.

Despite the slow growth still happening in the local economy, PNC economists said their latest spring survey shows growth is the dominant trend in North Carolina in terms of jobs, population and income. Bill Adams, PNC vice president and senior economist, said the national economy is set to grow robustly this year and in 2019, which will translate into faster wage growth than the country has seen earlier during the current economic expansion.

But Adams acknowledged nearly a quarter of businesses say it has gotten harder to find qualified candidates over the past six months. In addition, most companies that aren’t hiring cite a lack of candidates as their reason, not the business environment.

Adams said during several conversations with many business managers around the country in late 2017 and early this year , most of them say staffing is especially difficult in the manufacturing and construction industries. The Rocky Mount metro area added 100 jobs in mining, logging and construction in February.

“Parts of North Carolina where the economy was already strong in 2017 are struggling to find workers to fill positions this year,” Adams said. “That will encourage businesses to be more creative in filling positions this year — either by considering candidates without all the qualifications they’re seeking or by filling positions in regions where unemployment is still higher.”

T. Gray Barbour, senior vice president and Carolinas business banking market manager at PNC Bank, said when the economy is strong and business owners’ outlook is positive, it has the potential to lift all boats.

“When deciding to locate a business in a certain area, business owners have to look at a variety of factors, including availability of supplies, skilled workers and other factors,” Barbour said. “There is no one view that fits all because each business is different — but the optimism voiced by business leaders should benefit the Rocky Mount area as well.”

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