Local unemployment rate hits 12 percent

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Mark Wineka
The number of Rowan Countians joining the unemployment ranks keeps mounting as the national recession maintains a firm grip on the local economy.
Rowan County’s jobless rate jumped to 12 percent in February, according to figures released Wednesday by the Employment Security Commission of North Carolina.
It’s the largest number seen since the Pillowtex plants in Rowan and Cabarrus counties closed in late July 2003.
Rowan County’s unemployment number increased from 11.4 percent in January and is more than double the 5.5 percent unemployment rate from February 2008.
The ESC reported that 8,782 qualified for unemployment benefits in Rowan in February.
Again, it seems the employment news will get worse before it gets better.
The February figures do not include the 1,290 Freightliner employees who were laid off effective March 13 from the Cleveland truck plant.
And another round of Freightliner layoffs are expected to take place in May.
Unemployment rates increased in all but one of North Carolina’s 100 counties in February.
Other unemployment rates for the counties touching Rowan are:
– Cabarrus ó 11.2 percent, up from 10.1 in January.
– Davidson ó 13.4 percent, up from 12.1.
– Davie ó 11.2 percent, up from 10.3.
– Iredell ó 12.9 percent, up from 11.7
– Stanly ó 12.2 percent, up from 12.1.
“Virtually every job sector in North Carolina has had some loss because of the national recession,” said ESC Chairman Moses Carey Jr.
“The ESC is working hard to assist those workers who are out of a job. And, over the course of the next week we will begin paying an additional $25 a week to those who are eligible for unemployment benefits.”
The extra $25 is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and will be retroactively paid to the week ending February 28 for those who were eligible for unemployment benefits during that time.
North Carolina had 42 counties which were at or below the state’s unadjusted unemployment rate of 11.3 percent. Rates increased in all 14 of the state’s Metropolitan Statistical Areas.
Total county employment (not seasonally adjusted) decreased in February by 12,302 workers, from 4,055,997 to 4,043,695. Not seasonally adjusted unemployment increased, by 52,824 workers.
The unemployment total in February was 512,659 workers, compared with 459,835 in January.
Orange County had the state’s lowest unemployment rate, at 6.5 percent, in February. Meanwhile, Graham County had the highest unemployment rate, at 17.9 percent.
The five counties receiving the highest amount in unemployment insurance benefits in February were: Mecklenburg, $19.8 million; Wake, $15.2 million; Guilford, $10.2 million; Gaston, $6.9 million; and Forsyth, $6.2 million.
In February, $212.2 million in benefits was paid to 233,077 individuals statewide, compared with $201.5 million to 234,114 individuals in January.
Deirdre Parker-Smith contributed to this story.