It was one of 14 counties to see rates go up in July. The jobless figures for Richmond rose one-tenth of a percent during the month, and the county tied with Alexander at 13.1 percent.
While 86 of the state’s 100 counties saw their rates dip over the month, the majority of counties have an unemployment rate of 10 percent or above and only one county, Currituck, has unemployment lower than 5 percent.
The state’s unadjusted unemployment rate is 9.9 percent.
“Local communities continue to be challenged by the current economic conditions,” said Employment Security Commission Chairman Lynn Holmes.
More than 2,680 of Richmond County’s estimated 20,500 registered workers were out of a job at some point in July, according to the release.
Despite July’s nominal decrease in employment in the county, ESC Rockingham Local Office Manager Jack Haliburton sees reasons to believe things will begin looking up soon.
He said the slight increase in unemployment for the month could be considered normal.
“There’s always reason for optimism,” he said. “We’re not seeing any larger volume in our office than we usually do - it’s stayed at about 450 to 500 a week. There aren’t as many job postings as we’d like there to be, but we’ve been doing some (employer evaluations of new businesses), and I’ve attended several ribbon-cutting ceremonies ... There’s also Plastek, which is about to begin picking up people, and developments coming from (Fort Bragg Base Realignment and Closure Commission). These all give me reason to be positive.”
Another reason for optimism is the upcoming holiday season, Haliburton said, which is already developing.
“I do expect (employment) to go back up in August slightly, because school’s back in and that drive sales up across the board,” Haliburton said. “Most all of our service employers are out there looking to get the holiday season going ... There has been a little bit of reservation from our employers to hire, but as they add stock for the holidays they’re going to have to pick more people up.”
Regionally, Scotland County retains the highest unemployment rate in the state at 16.2 percent, while other counties that outpaced Richmond’s jobless figures include Cherokee, Graham and Rutherford counties.
Both Anson and Montgomery have above 12 percent unemployment. Stanly is a bit lower at 11.4 percent.
Moore and Hoke counties both registered more than 8 percent unemployment.
North Carolina Justice Center Policy Analyst Alexandra Forter Sirota pointed out the state is not out of the woods yet, with 54 of its 100 counties with double-digit unemployment.
“While it’s good to see unemployment numbers fall, we’ve got more work to do to get out of this recession,” she said in a release. “North Carolina needs new job-creation policies, like subsidies to help provide employers new hire workers, to get our economic engine running.”
South by North Strategies Principal John Quinterno pointed out the struggle to create jobs has been particularly difficult in the rural areas of the state.
“Labor markets in non-metropolitan communities remain particularly weak,” he said. “Last month, 10.8 percent of the non-metro labor force was unemployed, compared to 9.5 percent of the metro one. More alarmingly, the non-metropolitan labor force continued to shrink. Since December 2007, the non-metropolitan labor force has contracted by 1.5 percent. Many of those missing individuals are effectively jobless.”
He points out that meaningful recovery will have to be driven by the state’s three largest population centers - the Triangle, the Triad and metro Charlotte - of which the Triangle was the only area with single-digit unemployment in July.
“Recent trends have exposed just how weak local economies are,” Quinterno said. “Private-sector activity remains anemic and is not replacing the economic support provided by various policy measures that have ended or are about to end. What little recovery we’ve had appears to be in danger of stalling out.”
Staff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 32, or by e-mail at email@example.com.