Unemployment rate nears double-digits

First Posted: 2/8/2009

In December 2008, the state saw 97 counties unemployment rates increase, including Surry County, which neared 10 percent, the highest since 1996.
The countys unemployment rate from December of 9.8 percent is nearly four points higher than it was in December of 2007 at 5.9 percent. It is three points higher than the first month of the year when it was 6.8 percent in January 2008.
While the rate fluctuated some during the first eight months of the years, it has steadily increased since September when it was 8.2 percent.
According to statistics reported from the North Carolina Employment Security Commission, in December the county recorded 35,306 people in its laborforce, with 31,846 actually employed, a difference of 3,460 unemployed.
Part of the increase can be attributed to the closing of the Vaughan-Bassett Furniture Plant in Elkin, which began laying off a portion of its 400 employees in December. The plant closed its doors on Jan. 30.
Layoffs from other businesses reducing operations included ASMO, Insteel Industries, Gildan in Hillsville, Va., as well as a number of smaller companies which have been reducing their workforce by a handful of people here and there during the rough economic times last fall caused in part by the decrease in personal spending by residents in communities nationwide.
Another factor in the layoffs could be the decrease tourism business, not just in Surry County, but statewide.
Prior to 2008, since 1990, the oldest records available through NCESC, the highest unemployment rate in Surry County was in January of 1996 when the rate hit 10.4 percent. In December 1995, the rate was 6.6 percent, and then in February of 1996, the rate dropped back down to 5.9 percent.
Rates in neighboring Stokes and Yadkin counties were at 7.9 percent. Both counties saw a steady increase in unemployment rates beginning in September, the same month Surrys increase began.
Stokes Countys rate increased from 4.4 percent in December 2007, and 5.2 percent in January 2008. Yadkin Countys rate grew by four percent from 3.9 percent in December 2007, and 4.6 percent in January.
Every corner of North Carolina is feeling the effects of our national economy, said ESC Chairman Moses Carey Jr. Layoffs and cutbacks have taken a toll on many of our sectors, including retail during the holiday season, professional and business services, along with construction and manufacturing.
In our offices throughout the state, the ESC is helping those who have filed a claim or are in need of other services like worker retaining.
According to NCESC reports, 43 counties were at or below the states unadjusted unemployment rate of 8.5 percent. Rates increased in all 14 of the states Metropolitan Statistical Areas.
Total county employment (not-seasonally adjusted) decreased in December by 56,400 workers, from 4,205,375 to 4,148,975. Not-seasonally adjusted unemployment increased, by 27,690 workers. The unemployment total in December was 383,528 workers compared with 355,838 in November.
Orange County, with a county seat of Hillsborough, had the states lowest unemployment rate at 4.8 percent in December. Meanwhile, Scotland County, county seat of Laurinburg, had the highest unemployment rate at 13.9 percent. Just this week, The Laurinburg Exchange, a sister paper of The News, reported additional layoffs coming in the county.
The five counties in the state receiving the highest amount in unemployment insurance benefits in December were: Mecklenburg, $16.9 million; Wake, $12 million; Guilford, $8.8 million; Gaston, $5.7 million; and Forsyth, $5 million. In December, $194.2 million in benefits was paid to 189,458 individuals statewide, compared with $127.6 million to 141,298 individuals in November.
Other area counties reported the following unemployment rates for December: Alleghany, 10.2 percent; Ashe, 10.1; Forsyth, 7.4; Guilford, 8.3; Rockingham, 10.1; and Wilkes, 9.2.
Contact Wendy Byerly Wood at [email protected] or 719-1923.

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