Many North Carolina counties are seeing steady drops in their unemployment rates, while a fifth of the counties saw unemployment rates climb in November from the prior month, according to county-level jobs numbers released by the N.C. Commerce Department’s Labor and Economics Division.
This month’s results (scroll down to see county rankings) show that all 100 counties lowered their unemployment rates over the last year. Two counties — Graham and Scotland – had unemployment rates over 10 percent, while
But there’s still a gap in most of the state from where local economics were before the nation’s Great Recession began in early 2008.
Two-thirds of North Carolina 100 counties in North Carolina had unemployed people now than they had in December 2007, and 67 counties also had smaller labor forces.
(The state overall had 246,318 unemployed people in November 2014, an increase of 34,482 from December 2007 levels. The labor force, however, has grown from 4.5 million in Dec. 2007 to 4.62 million in November 2014.)
This chart (which has data through Oct. 2014 and hasn’t been updated to include today’s data) from the N.C. Budget and Tax Center shows that 15 counties in the state have seen drops of higher than 10 percent of the number of people employed in counties. (Note: Both N.C. Policy Watch and the Budget and Tax Center are part of the N.C. Justice Center, an anti-poverty non-profit).
Jobs data for November 2014 shows that the state, as a whole, had 25,373 more people working now than it did a year ago. Unemployment rolls also dropped in that time period by nearly 80,000, and several economists say that gap is caused in large party by “missing workers” that exited the labor force after struggling and not finding work.
One word of caution: county unemployment estimates are based on non-seasonally adjusted figures, meaning areas that see large amounts of seasonal employment (coastal areas with robust summer tourism economies, agricultural areas) experience routine spikes in unemployment during off-seasons.
Chatham County on the edge of the Research Triangle had the lowest unemployment rate in November, at 3.7 percent.
Graham County, a sparsely populated mountain county on the western edge of North Carolina, led the state in unemployment with 11.4 percent of its labor force out-of-work.
The county’s largest employer, Stanley Furniture, shut down a Robbinsville factory this summer making children’s furniture and employing 400 people in an area that already among the highest unemployment rates in the state.
Lumber company Oak Valley Hardwoods recently announced it bought the former furniture plant and plans on bring 114 jobs back to Graham County.
The company hasn’t said when it will begin renovating the plant, or begin hiring, according to an article earlier this month from the Carolina Public Press.