Unemployment fell in 16 out of the 17 westernmost counties in North Carolina from March to April, according to a report released by the N.C. Department of Commerce Friday.

Yancey County’s rate remained at 12.2 percent.

“Rates continued to drop in April,” said Dale Carroll, the department’s deputy secretary, in the report. “Looking at over-the-year numbers, most of North Carolina’s counties have lower unemployment rates, which is certainly positive.”

Click to view full-size image. Angie Newsome/Carolina Public Press

Though the decrease in Western North Carolina mirrored a statewide drop in unemployment — 0.5 percentage points from March — three counties in the region are among the top five worst-ranked areas for unemployment in the state. And out of the 50 states, North Carolina’s unemployment rate was fourth worst in the nation for April.

Graham County, which had the highest unemployment rate in North Carolina from December through March, dropped to second in the state with a rate of 16.7 percent. Swain County ranked third highest with 13.6 percent unemployment, and Rutherford County tied with Edgecombe County at fourth with 13.4 percent.

Twelve of the state’s 17 westernmost counties are reckoning with unemployment rates higher than the statewide rate of 9.1 percent. Polk, Jackson, Henderson, Haywood and Buncombe counties are the only counties below the statewide rate.

In year-over-year unemployment rates, which analysts say provide a more comprehensive picture of employment trends, Graham County’s unemployment rate was up 0.8 percentage points from April 2011.

Rates also increased in Yancey and Mitchell counties when compared to April of last year.

Still, some parts of Western North Carolina did exceptionally well in April.

Currently, Henderson and Buncombe counties have the third and seventh lowest unemployment rates in the state, respectively. Henderson County’s rate dropped to 7.0 percent, while Buncombe County’s dropped to 7.3 percent.

The Asheville Metropolitan Statistical Area retained its position as third best among the state’s 14 MSAs for unemployment in April. The area’s unemployment rate improved again this month, dropping 0.4 percentage points to 7.5 percent from March.

Angie Newsome/Carolina Public Press

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Hank Shell is a contributing reporter and photographer with Carolina Public Press. Contact him at shelljh@email.appstate.edu.

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  1. These numbers do not tell the entire story. How many people have dropped out of the workforce? How many are underemployed? What are the quality of jobs? Which sectors and what are median wages? This information is critical to understanding the employment picture in WNC.