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Region holds the state’s highest rate of joblessness

Unemployment rates released by the N.C. Department of Commerce on Jan. 30 showed unemployment in Western North Carolina worsened from November to December.

Click to view full-size image. Angie Newsome/Carolina Public Press
Click to view full-size image. Angie Newsome/Carolina Public Press

All of the 18 westernmost counties in the region posted increasing unemployment in December, the latest figures showed, with Graham County experiencing the highest rate of unemployment among all the state’s 100 counties. It’s rate — 18.5 percent — was nearly double the non-seasonally adjusted statewide rate of 9.5 percent for the month.

Swain County had the second-highest rate in the region, at 16.5 percent, and the largest increase in joblessness from the month before. It posted more than a 3 percentage-point increase since November.

In fact, more than half of the 18 westernmost counties posted double-digit unemployment in December, the numbers show.

Unemployment also increased slightly in all the metropolitan statistical areas in the state, including Asheville’s, which includes Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson and Madison counties. The metro rate, at 7.5 percent in December, was still one of the lowest rates in the state, however.

At 7.2 percent, Buncombe and Henderson counties’ unemployment rates tied for the lowest in the 18 westernmost counties.

But when comparing the rates with those from December 2011, the rates present a more optimistic picture and show that, overall, unemployment may be easing up.

Seventeen of the 18 westernmost counties all had higher unemployment rates a year ago, according to the data. The only exception was found in Mitchell County, which had an uptick of 1.3 percent when compared to its December 2011 unemployment rate.

The state unemployment rate release for January is scheduled to be released on Monday, March 18.

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Angie Newsome

Angie Newsome is the executive director and editor of Carolina Public Press. Contact her at (828) 774-5290 or e-mail her at

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