The state’s rate now stands at 10.5 percent, and Richmond County’s figure stands at 14.7 percent.
Neighboring Scotland County has the highest jobless rate in the state, after its rate rose about three-quarters of a percentage point to reach 17.3 percent in April.
Richmond and Scotland were two of only 14 counties across North Carolina to report increases in unemployment, and the only two among their adjoining counties.
“I had hoped it would go down, but it is what it is,” Scotland County Employment Security Commission Local Office Manager Burnest Graham told The Laurinburg Exchange. “We still have people who are being laid off, some not because of displacement ... but because of reductions of work force.”
He also attributed some of the county’s economic woes to seasonal changes, with more people joining the summer workforce.
To the west of Richmond, Anson County saw its rate reduced nearly 1.5 percent to drop to 13.4. Montgomery (13.8) shed .6 percent of its unemployed, and Stanly (11.6) reported a drop of .8 percent.
To the east, Moore’s unemployment rate fell .6 percent to 9.6, and Hoke dropped .4 percent to register an even 8 percent.
From a statewide perspective, an ESC official hinted at optimism - tempered with realism.
“For the second consecutive month, a large number of North Carolina’s counties have had a decrease in their unemployment rate,” Employment Security Commission Chairman Moses Carey Jr. said. “However, virtually every county in the state continues to work through this difficult and challenging national recession. This agency is here to serve those in need of work search opportunities, for those needing to file unemployment benefits and to assist businesses find the workers they need.”
In addition to extended and increased unemployment benefits, a May news release from the North Carolina Justice Center credits food stamps as one of the tools that have lessened the economic woes of the current national recession.
According to a brief authored by North Carolina Budget and Tax Center research associate John Quinterno, North Carolinians have received about $1.6 billion in food stamp payments, which have generated about $2.8 billion in economic activity.
“Food stamp benefits help low-income families and households struggling with a dramatic loss of income to make ends meet,” Quinterno said. “Because most benefits are spent quickly on groceries and at area stores, the payments also help to maintain local economic activity.”
In order to find how much economic activity food stamps have created, Quinterno compiled the total benefits paid to families, and multiplied that number by $1.73, believed to be a conservative estimate of how much money the payments generate in local economies.
In the month of April, Richmond County Social Services sent out more than $1.2 million in food stamps that benefited nearly 10,000 people, according to DSS Income Maintenance Administrator Barrett Hollimon.
According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Richmond County had about 46,000 residents.
Given Quinterno’s formula for calculating the economic value of food assistance, $1.2 million in benefits would represent more than $2 million in economic activity.
“The importance of food stamps benefits is growing as the recession worsens,” Quinterno said. “Since the start of the recession, the number of households receiving food assistance has increased by 21 percent. In March, 1.2 million North Carolinians lived in households receiving assistance. If those individuals gathered in one place, they would form a metro area almost as populous as Charlotte.”
Additionally, the release reads, households receiving food stamps got a boost from recent federal regulation that increased the value of food stamps temporarily 13.6 percent.
Quinterno said this will help low-income families obtain the basics during the recession, and strengthen local economies when the money is spent at area stores.