Jobless rate rises across area


Staff Writer

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Twin Counties were among 97 out of 100 counties where the state Department of Commerce reported an increase in unemployment rates for June.

Edgecombe County’s 7.4 percent unemployment rate in June, which was ranked second-highest among the 100 counties, was higher than its 7.0 percent rate in May. However, it was still lower than the county’s 7.8 percent rate in June 2017.

The unemployment rate for Nash County rose to 5.8 percent in June, up from a 5.2 percent rate in May. It was still a decline from the 6.4 percent in June 2017. The figures in June showed the county with the 10th highest jobless rate in the state.

All 15 of the state’s Metropolitan Statistical Areas experienced jobless rate increases. The Rocky Mount metro area’s rate jumped to 6.3 percent in June, an increase from the 5.8 percent in May. In June 2017, the unemployment rate for Rocky Mount was higher at 6.9 percent.

Patrick McHugh, economic analyst for the liberal-leaning N.C. Justice Center’s Budget & Tax Center, said there’s no need to put much stock in month-to-month swings.

“If a trend persists for more than a few months, I would start paying attention — but local level data can be off from one month to the next for a variety of reasons,” McHugh said.

Asheville was reported with the lowest unemployment rate at 3.4 percent among the metro areas, while areas like Durham, Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Wilmington and Charlotte all had jobless rates between 3.7 percent and 3.9 percent. Rocky Mount continued to have the highest unemployment rate.

William Mann, policy analyst for the N.C. Justice Center, said while many experts are lauding the strength of the U.S. economy in aggregate, peeling back the layers reveals that much of that growth is concentrated in larger metropolitan centers throughout the country.

He added this is certainly true in North Carolina, where Charlotte and Raleigh’s metropolitan statistical areas have in recent months accounted for an inordinate share of the state’s job growth. Munn said Rocky Mount’s labor market more emulates other Eastern North Carolina areas than its peers along the I-85 and I-40 corridor. 

“In my estimation, this is a function of demand for a specific industry mix,” Mann said. “High-skill, technical jobs are heavily sought after, and if Rocky Mount is not currently a hub for these kinds of businesses then the metro is at a disadvantage.”

Munn said another possible contributor to the Rocky Mount’s differential unemployment rates is that other metros on the I-85 and I-40 corridor benefit from in-migration of wealthy retirees who Rocky Mount may not be attracting at similar rates.

“Retirees bring their investment income and provide substantial boosts to local economies, which is particuarly evident in Brunswick County,” Munn said. “Eastern North Carolina has historically not made the necessary investments in human capital, which has triggered a compounding effect on a region’s readiness for evolving economies.”