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Countywide unemployment figures for North Carolina showed that joblessness fell in all 100 counties in December 2013 when compared to rates posted the previous December.
Recently released by the N.C. Department of Commerce, the rates track monthly unemployment rates, comparing them to the previous month and the same month the year before. The rates are not seasonally adjusted.
Among the 18 westernmost counties, the December 2013 unemployment rate fell 6.7 percent in Clay County when compared to December 2012. In Graham County, the rate fell 6.3 percent in that same time comparison.
When comparing unemployment to November, however, the decrease in unemployment was less dramatic.
In all, 13 WNC countywide rates were less in December 2013 than November 2013. Two — Haywood and Jackson — remained the same. Three — Graham, Macon and Swain counties — experienced slight increases in unemployment for the month.
For an in-depth analysis from Carolina Public Press about the region’s unemployment, the impact of changes to North Carolina’s long-term unemployment benefits and decreases in the region’s the labor force, read “State unemployment rate hits low, but recovery still elusive.”
And when compared to the statewide unemployment number for the month, which sat at 6.6 percent, most Western North Carolina counties either matched or were higher than that rate. Seven were below the state rate.
Graham County posted the highest unemployment rate for the month — at 12.2 percent. Polk County posted the lowest unemployment rate for the month — at 4.6 percent.
The Asheville metropolitan statistical area, which is made up of Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson and Madison counties, showed an unemployment rate of 5 percent, slightly below its rate of 5.2 percent in November.
For several months, the Asheville area’s rate was the lowest among the state’s 14 MSAs, but it fell to No. 2 in December, slightly behind the Durham-Chapel Hill area, which had an unemployment rate of 4.9 percent for the month.
But when comparing the December Asheville MSA’s labor force to December 2012, there was a slight uptick, according to the state data. Led by increases in the leisure and hospitality and the education and health services sectors, the labor force in the area increased by 1.8 percent. Year-over-year decreases were posted in the government and the mining, logging and construction job sectors. The area has an overall non-farm labor force of 178,000, the report showed.
The only reason the unemployment rate has dropped last February the business community had Governor Pat McCrory sign a bill cutting the amount and duration of state jobless benefits. The state had exhausted its unemployment trust fund collected from and paid for by business taxes, and had borrowed $2.5 billion from the federal government to pay jobless claims. When the new law took effect on July 1, the maximum weekly benefit fell from $535 to $350 and its duration cut to between 12 and 20 weeks, the standard in most other states. That was only half the blow. Reducing state benefits violated the terms of the federal program, which is intended to supplement, not replace, state aid so workers in North Carolina were also disqualified from receiving federal benefits. So violate one law to punish the unemployed and get funds cut to punish the rest. In essence, the state’s experience over the last six months is what may be in store for the rest of the country. If left to fester. The 1.3 million people who lost their benefits on December 28th are going to be in the same position as the people here who have lost theirs. At first glance, the effect appears to be positive. North Carolina’s unemployment rate did drop 1.4 percent between July and November. By comparison, the national unemployment rate fell by 0.6 percent over the same period. A closer look suggests that North Carolina’s unemployment numbers have not fallen because the long-term jobless have found work but because they’ve quit looking altogether. As a result, the state no longer counts them as unemployed. Year after year, the number of employed people in North Carolina increased by over 6 thousand while the unemployed fell by over 100 thousand. That means the labor force contracted by over 95 thousand. So the improvement has not necessarily been driven by more people going to work, but is actually being driven to a large degree by people leaving the state and our labor force. But never let the facts get in the way of a good story.