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Jobless rate rises in area

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BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Staff Writer

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Rocky Mount Metropolitan Statistical Area posted the highest unemployment rate of North Carolina’s metro areas, but the Twin Counties chief business and industrial recruiter is hoping that’s going to be past history.

The Rocky Mount metro area, which is comprised of Edgecombe and Nash counties, posted a jobless rate of 6 percent for January compared to the statewide rate of 4.5 percent for the same month, data from the state Commerce Department shows.

The jobless rate in the Rocky Mount area increased 1 percent compared to December. The state’s 14 other metro areas experienced jobless rate upticks as well.

Looking at North Carolina’s counties and the Twin Counties area, Edgecombe County posted a jobless rate of 7 percent for January, which was an increase of 1.1 percent compared to December.

Edgecombe County’s jobless rate presently ranks seventh highest among the state’s 100 counties.

Nash County posted a jobless rate of 5.5 percent for January, which was an increase of nine-tenths of a percent compared to December.

Nash County’s jobless rate ranks 34th highest among the 100 counties.

Carolinas Gateway Partnership President and CEO Norris Tolson and his team are quite aware of the unemployment in Edgecombe and Nash.

At the same time, Tolson said, “We’ve got the jobs to help fill ‘em.”

Tolson has said by 2020 in the Twin Counties, the partnership needs to have approximately 3,500 people ready to go to work at expanding or future industries. One of those future commitments is from Chinese-based Triangle Tire, which is going to open a plant at the Kingsboro megasite in Edgecombe County.

Meantime, Tolson and his team, along with numerous other officials, are launching RAMP East, a multi-county marketing and recruiting initiative to help get residents into training situations to secure good-paying jobs.

Also, Tolson is upbeat about the Council of State earlier this month voting to shift the state Division of Motor Vehicles’ headquarters from Raleigh to the former Hardee’s Food Systems building in Rocky Mount by next year.

“That really does add to the opportunity for really good jobs,” Tolson said.

And Tolson said he and his team are hoping the Rocky Mount area is going to move off the No. 1 spot for metro areas with the highest jobless rate.

“We hope that all of our folks will be able to find good jobs,” he said. “We certainly have the opportunity for people to get good jobs.”

The 4.5 percent statewide jobless rate for January was a seven-tenths of a percent uptick compared to December’s statewide jobless rate.

Statewide, the Commerce Department’s data shows the jobless rates increased in all of North Carolina’s counties for January.

As has been the pattern, most counties posting the highest jobless rates can be found in the eastern part of the state, while most counties posting the lowest jobless rates can be found in the Research Triangle area or the western part of the state.

Hyde County posted the state’s highest jobless rate at 13.3 percent. Hyde County was followed by Tyrrell County at 9.2 percent, Dare County at 8.9 percent, Scotland County at 8.1 percent and Washington County at 7.4 percent.

Buncombe County, home of a revitalized downtown Asheville, posted the state’s lowest jobless rate at 3.4 percent. Buncombe County was followed by Alexander County at 3.7 percent and Henderson, Orange and Wake counties at 3.8 percent each.

State commerce officials, in their analysis, said a standard revision of earlier data clearly shows slowing growth rates in jobs, earnings and employed workers statewide, particularly in the second half of 2018.

The commerce officials said this doesn’t necessarily mean the economy is starting to turn but said this should be watched closely as North Carolina heads into a 10th year of economic expansion.

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