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Area jobless rates rise

Beaufort County’s unemployment rate in the first month of 2012 was at the same place it was in January 2011: double digits.

Beaufort County’s unemployment rate reached 11.9 percent in January, according to figures released by the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Labor and Economic Analysis Division. That is a 1-percent jump when compared to the 10.9 percent jobless rate in the county in December 2011.

Hyde, Martin and Washington counties also saw their jobless rates increase from December 2011 to January 2012, with Hyde County’s rising by nearly 4 percent. Pitt County’s jobless rate rose 0.7 percent from 9.5 percent in December 2011 to 10.2 percent in January 2012.

Jobless rates increased in 95 of the state’s 100 counties, decreased in three counties and were unchanged in two counties, according to the division. North Carolina’s unemployment rate for January was 10.5 percent.

Over 2011, jobless rates increased in 58 counties, decreased in 35 counties and remained the same in seven counties, according to the division.

“We spiked,” said Patrick Oswalt, manager of the Division of Employment Security’s office in Washington, during a brief interview Thursday.

For the most part, Oswalt was at a loss to explain Beaufort County’s jobless rate increasing to 11.9 percent in January.

“I don’t know. I don’t have a take on it. I can’t put my finger on it. We haven’t had anything that would spike it,” Oswalt said at first.

Oswalt speculated the spike could be “carry over from Hurricane Irene.” He has doubts that carry over, if any, is a major factor in the county’s jobless rate almost reaching 12 percent in January.

Oswalt said there’s a simple cure for double-digit unemployment rates.

“We need some jobs. That’s what we need,” Oswalt said.

“If there is anyone out there hiring, please make us aware of that so we can make our claimants aware,” Oswalt said.

“Seasonal losses in retail as well as the leisure and hospitality sector contributed to gains in the unemployment rates,” said N.C. Department of Commerce Deputy Secretary Dale Carroll in a news release. “While rates were up in January, over the year nearly half of the state’s counties unemployment rates decreased or remained the same. Our focus continues to be our customers in assisting them in finding work through programs at our DES offices and JobLink Career Centers statewide.”

Beaufort County’s work force (civilian) was at 21,111 people in January, according to DES figures. Of that number, 2,511 were unable to find work. The county’s work force was at 21,098 people in December 2011, according to DES figures. Of that number, 2,294 were unable to find work.

Hyde County’s work force in January came in at 2,585 people, with 441 of those people unable to secure employment, according to DES information. Hyde County’s work force for December 2011 came in at 2,698 people, with 357 of those people unable to secure employment, according to DES data.

The work force in Martin County for January totaled 11,475 people, according to DES data. Of that number, 1,411 could not find jobs. The work force in Martin County for December 2011 came to 11,203 people, according to DES data. Of that number, 1,271 were unable to find jobs.

In Washington County, the January work force totaled 6,549 people, with 894 of them unable to secure employment, according to DES figures. Washington County’ work force for December 2011 was reported at 6,448 people, according to DES information. Of that number, 814 people were unsuccessful in finding work.

For January, not one county had a jobless rate at 5 percent or below. There were 20 counties with unemployment rates between 5 percent and 10 percent. Eighty counties had unemployment rates at 10 percent or higher, according to DES figures.

Of the state’s 100 counties, Orange County had the lowest jobless rate in January at 6.4 percent. Graham County had the highest jobless rate in January at 20.6 percent.

The jobless figures released by DES do not include unemployed people whose unemployment insurance benefits expired and who are not listed as unemployed. Factor in those people and a county’s true jobless rate is higher.

Area Jobless Rates

Beaufort County
January 2010: 11.9%
December 2011: 10.9%
Change: + 1%
Hyde County
January 2012: 17.1%
December 2011: 13.2%
Change: + 3.9%
Martin County
January 2012: 12.3%
December 2011: 11.3%
Change: + 1%
Washington County
January 2012: 13.7%
December 2011: 12.6%
Change: + 1.1%
Source: N.C. Division of Employment Security

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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