ESC official expects little change in jobless rate

Published 9:39 am Friday, April 9, 2010

Contributing Editor

Beaufort County’s jobless rate dropped two-tenths of 1 percent from January to February, according to figures released by the N.C. Employment Security Commission.
The county’s unemployment rate fell from 12.3 percent in January to 12.1 percent in February, according to the latest ESC jobless data.
Patrick Oswalt, manager of the Employment Security Commission office in Washington, doesn’t see Beaufort County’s jobless rate changing much in the coming months.
“I think we’re going to stay right where we are at the rest of the year — between 11 and 12 percent,” Oswalt said.
“I don’t see anybody going to work anytime soon, not in any mass numbers,” Oswalt said. “We’ve seen a few people going to work.”
“Yes. Definitely,” Oswalt responded when asked if the 0.2 percent drop in Beaufort County’s unemployment rate from January to February could be attributed to census-related hiring and a slight increase in seasonal jobs.
In Washington County, the unemployment rate increased from 13 percent in January to 13.4 percent in February, an increase of 0.4 percent.
Martin County’s unemployment rate fall for 11.7 percent in January to 11.4 percent in February, a decline of 0.3 percent.
Hyde County’s unemployment rate for February was 14 percent, the same rate it experienced in January.
Beaufort County’s work force for February was at 21,391 people. Of that number, 18,802 people were on the job, leaving 2,589 people unemployed.
Beaufort County’s work force for January was at 21,349 people. Of that number, 18,719 people were working, with 2,630 people unable to find work.
Judy Meier Jennette, spokeswoman for Beaufort County Community College, said in an interview Thursday that the area’s continued double-digit unemployment rate has resulted in a significant number of unemployed people enrolling at BCCC to take courses that help improve their educational and occupational skills so they are more employable.
“We’ve got record enrollment right now. They (high unemployment and record enrollment) are directly related to each other,” Jennette said.
BCCC offers options that appeal to many jobless people, she said.
“A lot of these folks who get laid of say “Enough of this.’ They start looking for recession-proof jobs for which they can train,” she said.
JobLink refers unemployed people to BCCC, as do area companies that layoff workers, Jennette said. Many of those unemployed people take nursing or automotive-technology courses, which tend to be recession-proof, she said.
“Automotive technology is busting down the door right now,” Jennette said.
BCCC also sends representatives to companies laying off or preparing to layoff workers. Those representatives work with employees, explaining their options if they choose to attend BCCC, she said.
The state’s unemployment rate increased from 11.7 percent in January to 11.8 percent in February. Of the state’s 100 counties, 58 saw their unemployment rates increase from January to February, 19 saw their jobless rates decline from January to February and 23 saw their unemployment rates remain the same from January to February.
In February, the state had 42 counties with jobless rates at or below the state’s unadjusted unemployment rate of 11.8 percent.
“The February data demonstrate the uncertain nature of the current economic conditions,” said ESC Chairman Lynn Holmes in an ESC news release. “Some areas experienced industry employment gains, but overall we continue to face challenges on the road to recovery. But, our agency is committed to continuing to provide needed services for thousands across our state.”
As of Wednesday, unemployed Beaufort County residents had received $1,554,209 in unemployment-insurance benefits during the past 30 days. So far this year, Beaufort County residents have received $4,499,933 in benefits.
In all of the counties combined, employment (not-seasonally adjusted) increased in February by 1,391 workers to 3,991,949. Not-seasonally adjusted unemployment increased by 4,705 workers. The unemployment total in February was 535,986 workers, compared with 531,281 in January.
In February, no county had a jobless rate at or below 5 percent, 13 counties had employment rates between 5 percent and 10 percent and 87 counties had jobless rates higher than 10 percent, according to ESC data.
Orange County reported the state’s lowest unemployment rate in February at 6.9 percent. Graham County had the highest jobless rate in January at 19.4 percent.