March 2013 unemployment rates. Map courtesy of the N.C. Department of Commerce.

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Three months into 2013, unemployment rates for across Western North Carolina appear to highlight the highs and lows of seeking work in the mountains.

Job data for the month, released by the N.C. Department of Commerce last week, show Graham County again posting the state’s highest unemployment rate among North Carolina’s 100 counties. With unemployment at 17.8 percent for the month, Graham’s rate is double the statewide average of 8.9 percent. The county is followed by Swain, with a rate of 16.7 percent. Other WNC counties with the top 10 highest unemployment rates include Mitchell, at 13.7 percent, and Rutherford, at 12.6 percent.

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But other WNC counties sit on the other end of the spectrum. Henderson County, at 6.7 percent, had the third-best rate across the state. Buncombe and Polk counties — both at 7 percent — were also among the counties with the lowest unemployment in the state for the month.

The Asheville metropolitan statistical area, which is complrised of Buncombe, Madison, Haywood and Henderson counties, showed that the combined area had one of the lowest unemployment rates among the state’s 14 urban areas. At 7.2 percent, the Asheville MSA’s unemployment rate was the third-lowest in the state.

Still, March’s numbers show that much of the region is experiencing above-average unemployment. Twelve of the 18 westernmost counties posted unemployment rates above the state average. Nine of those same 18 counties had unemployment of more than 10 percent.

But, March’s numbers showed that the rates are falling for most counties when compared to March a year ago. Thirteen counties saw drops in unemployment — the highest being in Graham County. But one of the most dramatic changes from a year ago was in Mitchell County, where the rate increased 2.2 percent. It was the county with the biggest over-the-year increase in unemployment in the state.

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Angie Newsome/Carolina Public Press
Angie Newsome/Carolina Public Press

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 anewsome@carolinapublicpress.org.

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