Jobs shortage begs cooperation

Published 12:16 am Sunday, March 20, 2011

As reported on today’s front page, Beaufort County’s unemployment rate jumped from 10.4 percent in December to 11 percent in January.

As the front-page story shows, 2,230 people in our county are unemployed, and these are just the job-seekers documented by the N.C. Employment Security Commission.

It’s likely this figure doesn’t capture some people who have given up looking for work out of frustration, or who weren’t eligible for unemployment benefits for various reasons.

We’re told the county’s jobless rate has been at or near 10 percent for something like two years.

With a statewide unemployment rate of 10.5 percent, it’s clear North Carolina is still feeling the prolonged effects of the Great Recession. The state’s 10.5-percent rate in January followed a rise from 9.7 percent in December.

The causes of the recession and its aftermath have been well documented in our news pages and by other media.

The factors behind Beaufort County’s persistently high unemployment in recent years are local, national and international, and too complex for us to wrap our heads around in a single editorial.

Suffice it to say our countywide community needs all the help it can get č from businesses and their partners in the public and private sectors.

Gov. Beverly Perdue is right: now isn’t the time to cut funding for incentive programs intended to bring jobs into č or spur the creation of jobs in č our state.

With that written, we should add that any government grant program warrants close scrutiny by watchdogs, in smooth or rocky economic times.

But we can debate the merits of incentives to businesses at some future date.

The reality is that incentives are living with us for the time being, and companies that could be lured into our state by these programs will yield to the temptations of competing states’ lures if the Old North State makes drastic cuts to job-related funds.

It’s also key that local elected officials comprehend and cooperate with initiatives spawned by groups like the nonprofit Beaufort County Committee of 100 and its publicly funded ally the Beaufort County Economic Development Commission.

These entities are doing the very real and earnest work of recruiting jobs, but they can’t do this work without the aid of all their necessary supporters, including the city and town councils throughout our county and the Beaufort County commissioners.

Only by working together cooperatively, in a sort of perpetual jobs-summit mode, can Beaufort County find creative, lasting solutions to its employment shortage.