MEDIA RELEASE: Unemployment rate up across North Carolina counties, metro areas

MEDIA RELEASE: Unemployment rate up across North Carolina counties, metro areas
Numbers show already distressed areas are hit the hardest

RALEIGH (July 29, 2011) – Unemployment is up across 94 of North Carolina’s 100 counties and in 10 of the state’s 14 metro areas, data released today by the Employment Security Commission shows. Public-sector job losses have been driving unemployment increases across state metro areas.

“North Carolina’s counties are having a hard time climbing out from the 2007-2009 recession, said Allan Freyer, an analyst with the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center, “and public sector layoffs aren’t helping matters.”

According to the ESC, the number of counties with unemployment rates above 10 percent has increased to 68, up from 56 in May. More ominously, the number of counties with unemployment rates at 10 percent or above has more than doubled since June 2010, when it rested at 32 counties.

The data also shows significant gaps between regions in terms of unemployment rates, with already distressed counties and metro areas hit the hardest by job loss. Alexander, Greene, Columbus, Bladen and Pender – designated as Tier I counties for their high levels of economic distress – all saw unemployment rates go up by more than 1 full percentage point. Tier 1 Scotland County has the state’s highest unemployment rate, with 17.1 percent, and another 12 other Tier 1 counties have rates above 13 percent.

Currituck was the only county in the state with an unemployment rate below 6 percent. Only six other counties had levels below 8 percent, including three – Chatham, Orange, and Henderson – that are located in the Research Triangle area, suggesting that the region’s employment base is somewhat resistant to the general economic slowdown affecting the rest of the state. These numbers are reflected in the metro areas as well, with the Durham/Chapel Hill metro area experiencing an 8 percent unemployment rate, the lowest in the state. Similarly, the Hickory and Rocky Mount metro areas, which suffered some of the worst unemployment numbers in the state over the last year, have higher unemployment rates than the state average of 10.4 percent.

Unemployment increases in metro areas have been largely drive by public-sector job loss, the data showed. The Charlotte metro area lost nearly 10,000 government jobs, negating any private sector job growth, and ultimately leading to a total loss of 4,000 jobs in the region. Greensboro/High Point would have gained 4,200 jobs if not for a loss of 1,400 public jobs, and in the Hickory metro area, 1,200 public sector layoffs completely reversed the 1,000 private sector jobs that had been created in that area.

“Economic recovery is in jeopardy for North Carolina,” said Alexandra Forter Sirota, Director of the BTC. “Without greater shared growth in employment opportunities across the state, uneven opportunity will continue to pull down the state’s competitiveness.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Alexandra Forter Sirota, director, NC Budget & Tax Center, alexandra@ncjustice.org, 919.861.1468; Allan Freyer, Public Policy Analyst, Budget & Tax Center, allan@ncjustice.org, 919.856.2151; Jeff Shaw, director of communications, NC Justice Center, jeff@ncjustice.org, 503.551.3615 (mobile).