Unemployment Soars Across North Carolina; Supplemental Unemployment Insurance Payments to Begin Today

Unemployment Soars Across North Carolina
Justice Center expert: Country and metro numbers point to an "unraveling" labor market

RALEIGH (April 1, 2009) -- Virtually no North Carolina community was spared from the unraveling of the labor market in February. According to data released this morning by the Employment Security Commission, unemployment rates rose in 99 of the state's counties and all 14 of its metropolitan areas. No county had an unemployment rate lower than 6.5 percent, and in 52 counties, at least 12 percent of the labor force was jobless and seeking work.
 
"The February numbers are horrible," said John Quinterno, research associate at the NC Budget & Tax Center.
 
In February, unemployment rates rose in 99 of the state's 100 counties. The highest recorded unemployment rate was 17.9 percent in Graham County, the lowest was 6.5 percent in Orange County. Unemployment rates exceeded 10 percent in 83 counties and 12 percent in 54 counties.
 
Metropolitan areas also struggled with rising unemployment in February. Unemployment rose in all 14 metropolitan areas and exceeded 10 percent in eight metros. The Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir area posted the highest unemployment rate -- 15.7 percent -- followed by Rocky Mount at 14.4 percent. No metro area recorded an unemployment rate lower than the 8 percent one seen in Durham-Chapel Hill.
 
"North Carolina's labor market is unraveling, and no community is safe," said Quinterno. "Even communities that are supposed models of the 'new' economy have been buffeted. In the Research Triangle, unemployment reached 8.7 percent in January; in the the greater Charlotte region, 12.4 percent of the labor force was unemployed."
 
"What is striking is just how rapidly the labor market has collapsed," explained Quinterno. "In the Piedmont Triad, the unemployment rate jumped to 11.5 percent from 7.1 percent over a four-month period."
 
Perhaps the only positive news for jobless North Carolinians is that the various extensions and supplements to unemployment insurance authorized under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are beginning to take effect. The federal government, for example, is paying to supplement weekly insurance payments by $25. In April, North Carolina will begin paying those supplements retroactive to the week of February 28.
 
"Although seemingly modest, the supplemental insurance payments will benefit individuals and the state's economy, " added Quinterno. "Had the supplemental program existed in February, unemployed North Carolinians would have received an additional $26.7 million. Because most unemployment insurance payments are spent quickly and locally, the supplements would have generated an estimated $43.8 million in statewide economic activity."
 
For More Information, Contact: John Quinterno, 919-856-3185 (office); 919-622-2392 (mobile).
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The NC Budget & Tax Center provides timely, accessible and credible analysis of state and local budget and tax issues with a special focus on the impact on low- and moderate-income North Carolinians.  moderate-income North Carolinians.