The majority of counties still have joblessness higher than the state average, and new federal and state policies are needed
RALEIGH (April 23, 2010) -- Unemployment rates fell in all of North Carolina's 100 counties during March according to numbers released this morning by the state Employment Security Commission. But, experts say, this doesn't mean the state's economy is out of the woods yet.
"The decline in unemployment numbers for all counties is a good sign, but those numbers mask other signs that the North Carolina economy - and working families - are still struggling," said Alexandra Forter Sirota, a policy analyst with the NC Justice Center's Budget & Tax Center.
The majority of North Carolina's counties, Sirota said, still have higher unemployment rates than the state average. Also, there are ongoing regional disparities in joblessness throughout the state.
For example, unemployment remains perilously high in counties like Halifax (13.2 percent) and Edgecombe (15.6 percent), especially when compared to Chatham (7.6 percent) and Orange (6.4 percent) counties.
Employment growth continues to concentrate in the state's larger metropolitan areas. The Charlotte metro area gained 5,300 jobs, while the Raleigh metro area gained 2,300 positions and Greensboro gained 1,800 respectively.
Gov. Beverly Perdue's jobs plans will benefit some of the hardest-hit areas, said Sirota, but more needs to be done at the state and federal level. On Tuesday, Gov. Perdue proposed a job-creating tax credit which would benefit employers in counties with unemployment rates 125 percent or more above the state average. Twelve counties meet this criteria.
"Counties with high unemployment will benefit from Gov. Perdue's high-unemployment hiring incentive proposed in her budget release on Tuesday," Sirota said. "But many more counties struggle with high unemployment rates that have persisted since before the current recession. We should consider counties' poverty rates in formulating policies to address long-term unemployment."
At the federal level, Sirota said, lawmakers should pass the Local Jobs for America Act, a federal proposal to invest in state and local governments to save and preserve jobs.
"The Local Jobs for America act will be an essential boost to statewide job growth," she said. "Local estimates suggest 18,000 jobs would be created in the first year with more than 11,000 being created in small towns and counties."
Workers in the construction and business services industry represented the highest number of unemployment insurance claims in March.