Unemployment down; workforce shrinking

SALISBURY — Rowan County’s unemployment rate dropped in December, but so did the county’s labor force and the number of residents who have jobs.

The county’s unemployment rate decreased by .3 percent to 6.8 percent, down from 7.1 percent in November and down 2.8 percent from a year ago.


Rowan’s labor force — the number of people employed and those looking for work — was 68,893 in December. That’s down from 69,294 in November.

The number of unemployed people in Rowan County dropped to 4,663 in December, down from 4,951 in November.

Robert Van Geons, executive director for RowanWorks Economic Development, said he relies on one number to determine local employment trends — the number of Rowan residents who have a job.

That number dropped slightly in December — down 113 people from the month before — but dip was expected and less severe than a year ago, he said. From November to December 2012, the number of employed residents went down about 550.

The number of Rowan residents who have a job jumped by 1,194 from October to November 2013. Generally, the number has trended upward for the past 12 months.

Since the recession, Rowan has seen a steady increase in the total number of people employed, Van Geons said.

“We remain slightly below pre-recession employment numbers,” he said. “While we have recovered a lot of the ground we lost, we still have a ways to go.”

Van Geons said he focuses on the number of workers who have jobs because the number of unemployed people can vary dramatically from month to month based on many factors, including unemployment benefits and whether someone has recently left school or enrolled.

Typically, the number of people who have a job falls in December and January after the holidays and as some companies shut down temporarily for maintenance and employees are furloughed, Van Geons said.

In December, unemployment rates decreased in 86 of North Carolina’s counties, increased in 11 and remained the same in three. All 14 of the state’s metro areas experienced rate decreases.

Scotland County had the highest unemployment rate at 12.6 percent while Orange County had the lowest at 4.1 percent. Among the metro areas, Rocky Mount at 9.4 percent experienced the highest rate and Durham-Chapel Hill at 4.9 percent had the lowest. The December statewide rate, which has not been seasonally adjusted, was 6.6 percent.

The number of workers employed statewide decreased in December by 32,140 to 4,315,366, while those unemployed decreased 17,561 to 305,196.

Since December 2012, the number of workers employed statewide increased 29,050, while those unemployed decreased 140,214.

In Cabarrus County, the labor force dropped to 91,640, down from 92,738 in November. Cabarrus had an unemployment rate of 5.9 percent, down from 6.2 percent in November and down from 8.6 percent a year ago.

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