May 2014 unemployment rates in Western North Carolina. Map courtesy of the N.C. Department of Commerce

The latest countywide joblessness figures from the N.C. Department of Commerce show that unemployment increased slightly between April and May for all but two of the 18 westernmost counties of North Carolina.

The largest month-over-month increase occurred in Madison County, which increased by 1 percentage point. The two counties that posted decreases in employment were Graham and Swain counties, with declines of -0.4 and -1.0 percent, respectively.

Statewide, the department reported, three of the state’s 100 counties posted unemployment rates in May of more than 10 percent. One of those counties — Graham — was in Western North Carolina, with a monthly rate of 10.3 percent.

On the other end of the spectrum, five counties posted rates below 5 percent. Two of those counties — Buncombe and Polk — were also in WNC, with both showing a monthly unemployment rate of 4.9 percent.

Comparing the state’s 14 major metropolitan areas, called metropolitan statistical areas, the Asheville MSA posted the lowest unemployment rate. Made up of Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson and Madison counties, the Asheville MSA’s rate was 5.1 percent.

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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