Most WNC counties’ March rates above state average

By recent accounts, unemployment fell in 98 of the state’s 100 counties in March. At least that’s what numbers released Friday by the N.C. Department of Commerce show.

Angie Newsome/Carolina Public Press

But Western North Carolina is still home to the area struggling hardest with unemployment in the state.

Graham County’s March unemployment rate showed that employment increased more than 2 percent from February. But despite the improvement, the rate still settled at 18.5 percent —  the worst rate in the state for the fourth straight month.

It was also one of only three counties with rates worse than those from March 2011. Year-over-year unemployment rates (which analysts often say provide a clearer picture of employment trends) for most of the region decreased in March. Only Graham, Jackson and Yancey’s rates increased.

But every county in the region saw some improvement in March, when compared to February.

“Unemployment rates were down in nearly every county in March,” said Dale Carroll, the department’s deputy secretary. “Over-the-year numbers show a positive downward trend as we continue to focus on supporting employees by growing jobs in North Carolina.”

Still, unemployment across the region was largely above the state average, which was 9.6 percent. Twelve of the 17 Western North Carolina counties were above that average.

Four — Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson and Polk — were below, and Madison County’s rate was the same.

But the Asheville Metropolitan Statistical Area’s March unemployment rate showed some improvement.

At 7.9 percent, it is .8 percent better than a year ago, with puts it at third best among the state’s 14 MSAs for the month, following Durham-Chapel Hill and Raleigh-Cary.

Angie Newsome/Carolina Public Press

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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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