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While countywide rates reveal that unemployment appears to be declining across most of Western North Carolina compared to last year, most-recent figures show a small growth in joblessness across the region in May.
The N.C. Department of Commerce released its newest monthly unemployment calculations for all 100 North Carolina counties last week. Those numbers show that, of the 18 westernmost counties in the state, 11 saw unemployment rise in May. The statewide unemployment rate, which is not seasonally adjusted, also increased for the month, from 8.5 percent in April to 8.9 percent in May.
But when compared to the same month last year, the rates appear to be improving in 14 of the 18 counties. Only Mitchell and Yancey counties showed unemployment rates higher in May 2013 than in May 2012. In two other counties — Macon and Watauga — the rates were the same.
Unemployment was in the double-digits in May in eight of the 18 westernmost counties. With a monthly rate of 15.3 percent, Graham County again posted the highest unemployment rate in the region, but unlike last month, it no longer has the highest unemployment rate in the state. Located in eastern North Carolina, Scotland County had the highest rate for May, at 16.2 percent.
Henderson County posted the lowest unemployment rate in the region, at 6.4 percent in May. Both Buncombe and Polk counties had 6.8 percent unemployment for the month.
The Asheville metropolitan statistical area, which is comprised of Buncombe, Madison, Haywood and Henderson counties, showed slight increases in joblessness from April to May, with its unemployment rate increasing from 6.6 to 6.9 percent. However, compared to May 2013, monthly unemployment in the area was down .7 percent.
The state Commerce Department’s figures also showed that the four-county area saw an increase of 1,400 jobs over the month. Those job increases were in a variety of categories, including leisure and hospitality and professional and business services. And when compared to May 2012, the Asheville area posted job growth of 3.2 percent, the greatest percentage increase among all of North Carolina’s metropolitan statistical areas.