Across the state, 66 counties saw a rate reduction, while the state saw overall losses in both the number of employed and unemployed.
The state average remained at 9.6 percent, roughly even with the national average. Richmond County’s drop was the third month in a row. The July rate was 13.1 percent.
The head of the North Carolina Employment Security Commission (NC ESC) pointed to a cumulative positive effect on the state’s economy over the past year, but noted more than one-third of the state’s counties continue to experience double-digit employment.
“Over the year we have seen unemployment rates decline in 90 counties, however, one-third of the counties had rates greater than 10 percent in October,” said NC ESC Chairman Lynn Holmes. “We continue to face economic challenges with respect to job growth, but we at ESC continue to assist those looking for work and those who qualify for unemployment benefits.”
North Carolina Employment Security Commission Spokesman Larry Parker explained the federal program to extend unemployment benefits is now being phased out, but those who are already in the program will continue to collect until their benefits are exhausted.
He also said help is available for many of those who time out of the federal extension through a state program.
“There is a thought process that there are thousands upon thousands of our clients who are not going to get paid this week, and that’s simply not the case,” Parker said. “Even if one were to exhaust their federal (emergency unemployment compensation), they may still qualify for the state extension program, better known as extended benefits.”
Those who are trying to get into the federal extension program must have exhausted all of their regular unemployment insurance benefits no later than the week ending Nov. 20, while those who are already in the program must have exhausted their first, second or third tier benefits no later than the week ending Nov. 27.
Barring further action by Congress, Parker explained, those who are in a tier of the federal program now will continue to receive those benefits until April 30 of next year, when the federal program expires.
“It’s a very gradual process,” Parker said. “We will certainly start seeing people fall off of the federal program progressively, week by week,” he said. “But putting a specific number on how many is difficult to do.”
For those who have exhausted the federal program, Parker explained the state’s program extends benefits for another 20 weeks.
“This program is based on our unemployment figures,” Parker said. “As long as we have a three month rolling average of 6.5 percent, that program will stay in place.”
Between regular unemployment benefits, federal extensions and the state extension, Parker said it is possible for an individual to draw 99 weeks of unemployment benefits.
In October, the number of counties in the state with double-digit unemployment fell from 39 to 37, while only one county - Currituck - maintained unemployment below 5 percent.
Richmond County had the seventh highest unemployment rate in the state for October. Scotland County was the only regional neighbor with a higher rate.
Scotland maintained the highest unemployment in the state in October at 14.7 percent, despite a dip of .4 percent.
All of the adjacent counties to Richmond saw decreases in their unemployment figures.
In Anson, the unemployment rate fell by .7 percent to reach 11.1, while Montgomery saw a .6 percent decrease to reach 10.9.
Hoke and Moore counties both saw their rates remain in the single digits, despite little to no movement. Moore fell .1 percent to reach 8.2, and Hoke saw no change in its 8.8 percent unemployment.
Of those who filed initial unemployment claims in October the majority were from the construction industry, with 5,608 coming the construction and special trades sector with another 3,832 coming from heavy construction. Another 3,813 newly unemployed came from the business services sector, while eating and drinking places accounted for 2,001 and miscellaneous services for 1,919.
Despite reductions in county rates, statewide overall employment dropped by 3,528 in the state, while the overall number of unemployed also fell by 8,598.
In his analysis of the monthly numbers, South by North Strategies principal John Quinterno said the reduction in the number of unemployed can in large part be attributed to those who are no longer actively seeking work in the down economy.
“Although unemployment rates across the state continued to fall, the declines were due to an exodus of workers from the job market,” Quinterno wrote in his own release. “The trend is a troubling one.”
Since the onset of the recession in December 2007, Quinterno noted, North Carolina has shed 6.4 percent of its payroll employment base - 267,800 positions - and has watched its unadjusted unemployment rate climb from 4.7 percent to 9.1 percent.
He also noted the reduction in rates in the majority of counties still equated to no net job growth across the state in the month of October.
“Many recent drops in local unemployment rates have been driven by workers abandoning the job market, not by job growth or improvements in underlying conditions,” Quinterno said. “Labor force contraction is a sign of an unhealthy economy and shows just how weak the current recovery is. By the same point in time following the last two recessions, the labor force was growing.”
He said rural job markets have been hit particularly hard hit, posting 9.9 percent unemployment in October as opposed to 8.8 percent in metropolitan areas.
“More alarmingly, the non-metropolitan labor force continued to shrink,” Quinterno said. “Between October 2009 and October 2010, the non-metropolitan labor force contracted by 1.7 percent of 22,520 individuals. Many of those missing persons are effectively jobless.”
Staff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 32, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.