MEDIA RELEASE: Unemployment rate up across majority of state’s counties, metro areas

MEDIA RELEASE: Unemployment rate up across majority of state’s counties, metro areas

RALEIGH (September 23, 2011) –
The unemployment rate in the vast majority of North Carolina’s counties and metros rose last month, according to a troubling new report released by the N.C. Employment Security Commission this morning.

Since July, the unemployment rate increased or stayed the same in 68 counties and went up in 10 of the state’s 14 metro areas. As a result, 58 counties have unemployment rates greater than the current state unemployment rate of 10.4 percent, and the number of counties with unemployment higher than 10 percent increased to 70 counties last month.

“The increase in unemployment since July is certainly troubling,” said Allan Freyer, policy analyst with the North Carolina Budget & Tax Center, “but the long-term trend in the unemployment rate is even more cause for concern. Over the last year, 80 percent of the state’s counties and 75 percent of metro areas saw big increases in their jobless rates, and public-sector layoffs aren’t helping matters any.”

Perhaps even more troubling is the fact that seasonal hiring in K-12 and higher education is largely responsible for cushioning the unemployment rate from even steeper increases, especially across the state’s metro areas. In most regions, the public-education sector—including K-12 school systems, community colleges, and state universities—often lay off instructors, staff, and contractors at the end of the academic year in May, only to rehire many of these workers at the beginning of the new school year in August. As a result, many of the public-sector job increases reported in counties and metros do not represent real hires and only mask the crumbling private-sector labor market.

“If seasonal government hiring is the only factor cushioning the labor market at this point, it’s hard to see how eliminating those public-sector jobs through budget cuts will help bring down the unemployment rate,” said Freyer.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Allan Freyer, Policy Analyst, BTC, allan@ncjustice.org, 703.598.1488; Jeff Shaw, Director of Communications, NC Justice Center, jeff@ncjustice.org, 503.551.3615 (cell).

The N.C. Budget and Tax Center—a project of the N.C. Justice Center—seeks to create economic opportunity and shared prosperity for all North Carolinians through non-partisan research, education and advocacy on budget, tax and economic issues.