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Jobless rate rises across area, state

Bridgestone-JobFair_3-18.jpg

Tiffany Applewhite, Paris Savage talk with Bridgestone representatives Lakesha Alston and Zack Doyle, from left, on March 16, 2018, during a job fair at Edgecombe Community College.

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BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Staff Writer

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

North Carolina’s jobless rate is up, while Rocky Mount again posted the highest jobless rate among the state’s metro areas and Edgecombe County posted the fifth-highest jobless rate among the state’s 100 counties.

Recently released data from the state Department of Commerce showed a 3.8 percent jobless rate in North Carolina in December, which is a three-tenths of a percent increase compared to November.

Jobless rates in December increased in 99 of the state’s 100 counties and remained steady in one — Rockingham — and increased in the state’s 15 metro areas.

The Rocky Mount Metropolitan Statistical Area posted a 5 percent jobless rate for December, which is a two-tenths of a percent increase from what the Commerce Department reported for November.

In the Twin Counties, Edgecombe posted a 5.9 percent jobless rate for December, which is a two-tenths of a percent increase compared to November.

Nash County posted a 4.6 percent jobless rate for December, which is a three-tenths of a percent increase compared to November. Nash also ranked near the bottom tier of counties with the state’s 73rd highest jobless rate.

Carolinas Gateway Partnership President and CEO Norris Tolson, while quite aware of such data, late last week said in Edgecombe and Nash, there are approximately 2,500 jobs already committed to in the future by businesses and industries.

Tolson emphasized Carolinas Gateway Director of Special Projects and Research Josh Tatum is busy with a program called RAMP East, which stands for the Regional Advanced Manufacturing Pipeline for Eastern North Carolina.

RAMP East is a collaborative training and outreach program involving eight community colleges and two workforce development boards in a 10-county region.

The goal is to market to people in eastern North Carolina seeking jobs and to provide training opportunities to prepare them for careers in advanced work.

“There’s certainly the opportunity to bring those (local unemployment) numbers down with the jobs that are here,” Tolson said. “And I believe local folks will step up and take those jobs.

“These are good jobs we’re talking about.”

Tolson emphasized the commitment by Triangle Tire, which is going to open a plant at the Kingsboro megasite in Edgecombe County, and he noted, “The starting salary is $56,000, plus benefits.”

He also said materials science company Corning, which is also going to open a facility in Edgecombe, is going to have jobs with yearly pay in the mid-to-upper $40,000s, plus benefits.

And he said call centers he and his team are recruiting would, if secured in the Rocky Mount area, create jobs with yearly pay of approximately $30,000 a year, plus benefits.

The jobless data in North Carolina have shown a continuing pattern of the lowest rates being found in the western part of the state and in the Research Triangle area.

Buncombe County, which is the home of a revitalized downtown Asheville, posted the lowest jobless rate of all 100 counties in December at 3 percent.

Orange County, home of UNC-Chapel Hill, and Wake County, home of the seat of state government, were close behind with rates of 3.2 percent.

The downside has consistently been many counties either in the vicinity of or east of the Interstate 95 corridor have posted North Carolina’s highest jobless rates.

Hyde County posted the highest rate in December at 8.6 percent, while Scotland and Tyrrell counties each posted rates of 6.9 percent. Washington County posted a rate of 6 percent.

Despite the persisting disparities between the eastern and the western parts of North Carolina, state commerce officials are upbeat, saying they believe their overall positive assessment of the state’s economy is likely going to hold.

At the same time, the officials said one can expect to see modest changes in how the state has progressed in recent years and in 2018.

The number of workers employed statewide decreased in December by 29,983 to just under 4.8 million, while the number of those unemployed increased 14,695 to 187,253.

However, the commerce officials said since December 2017, the number of workers employed statewide has increased by 78,656, while the number of those unemployed has decreased by 26,660.

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