By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
Unemployment rates dropped in 99 out of North Carolina’s 100 counties in March, according to data released Wednesday by the North Carolina Department of Commerce’s division of labor and economic analysis. Wilson County was the only county where the rate remained unchanged this month, at 12.2 percent.
Edgecombe County’s unemployment rate was 13.9 percent in March, falling for the third month in a row, from 15.2 percent in February and 16.6 percent in January.
“Over the month, the number of unemployed decreased by almost 400 people,” said Larry Parker, public information director for the state’s Division of Employment Security. “There’s lots of reasons people go in and out of the labor force.”
Among those reasons are relocation, retirement and simply giving up the job search temporarily. In the past year, Edgecombe County’s unemployment rate has remained “relatively flat,” according to Parker.
“Last year at this time, you were at 14.2 percent,” he said.
Edgecombe has the state’s fifth highest unemployment rate for March, behind the eastern shore county of Dare (14.8 percent), south central county of Scotland (16.1 percent) and western counties of Swain (16.7 percent) and Graham (17.8 percent). Edgecombe’s neighboring counties of Nash, Wilson, Martin and Halifax all had unemployment rates in the double digits, while the county just to the southeast, Pitt, had a rate of 8.6 percent.
The statewide unemployment rate for March was 8.9 percent, and 36 counties had unemployment at or below that rate. The Rocky Mount metropolitan area had the highest unemployment rate for the month, at 12.5 percent, while Durham/ Chapel Hill had the lowest rate, at 6.7 percent.
“I think in general when you look at the state as a whole, we’re certainly gaining jobs,” Parker said. He said rebounding from the job losses during the recession of 2008-2010 has been a slow but steady process for North Carolina; the state has gained 240,000 jobs since February 2010.
“Most of the job sectors have been doing well in the past year, but construction still struggled a little bit,” Parker said. An example of an industry on the uptick is education and health services, which as gained 13,300 jobs in the past year statewide.
The number of employed workers statewide increased in March by 17,248 to 4,273,673, while the number of unemployed fell 26,855 to 419,546. State unemployment also has decreased since this time last year, by 22,262.