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Signifying a turn in recent job conditions across Western North Carolina, unemployment rates fell between March and April across each of the 18 westernmost counties of the state, according to data released by the N.C. Division of Employment Security.
Even though the county still has the second-highest unemployment rate in the state, Swain County posted the largest over-the-month drop, from 16.5 percent to 14.6 percent. Still, it was one of two WNC counties that saw unemployment increase compared to a year ago, which is the comparison employment officials often cite as the most representative of overall conditions. Swain and Mitchell counties were the only two of the 18 westernmost counties to see unemployment increase compared to a year ago. Both were also well above the statewide rate for April, which was 8.5 percent.
Overall, 10 of the 18 counties were above the statewide rate; eight were below. Eight — Avery, Cherokee, Graham, Macon, Mitchell, Rutherford, Swain and Yancey — all posted unemployment rates of more than 10 percent for the month. And among all the counties in the state, Graham County’s unemployment rate was the highest, at 15.9 percent.
But among the 14 metropolitan statistical areas in the state, the Asheville area had the second-lowest rate, falling just behind the Durham-Chapel Hill area. The Asheville area, which is comprised of Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson and Madison counties, had an April unemployment rate of 6.6 percent.