MEDIA RELEASE: High Unemployment Reigns in North Carolina's Counties and Metros

High Unemployment Reigns in North Carolina's Counties and Metros
Center expert: Few meaningful changes in the health of local labor markets

RALEIGH (May 29, 2009) - Shockingly high rates of unemployment remained the norm across North Carolina in April. Data released this morning by the Employment Security Commission show that unemployment rates exceeded 10 percent in 69 counties. No county had an unemployment rate lower than 5.8 percent, and in 36 counties, at least 12 percent of the labor force was jobless and seeking work.

"North Carolina's local labor markets remained in crisis in April," says John Quinterno, research associate at the NC Budget & Tax Center. "While some rates of labor market decline moderated slightly, the bottom line is that there exists little evidence of an imminent recovery."

In April, the highest county unemployment rate was 17.3 percent in Scotland County, the lowest was 5.8 percent in Orange County. Overall for the month, 480,000 Tar Heels were unemployed.

Metropolitan areas also struggled with a weak labor market in April. Unemployment rates declined in 12 metropolitan areas; nevertheless, six metros posted unemployment rates at or above 10 percent. The Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir area posted the highest unemployment rate - 14.9 percent -- followed by Rocky Mount at 13.7 percent. No metro area recorded an unemployment rate lower than the 7.3 percent one seen in Durham-Chapel Hill.

Weak labor markets also were the norm in the state's three largest metropolitan regions. In April, 12.1 percent of the labor force in the Charlotte area was jobless and actively seeking work. The Piedmont Triad posted an unemployment rate of 11 percent, and the Research Triangle had a rate of 8.2 percent.

"Nothing in the April report suggests that the labor market has reached a turning point," cautions Quinterno. "Families and communities across the state will confront the hardships associated with a weak labor market well into the foreseeable future."

"The problems will become even more severe if the state legislature insists on a cuts-only approach to balancing the budget," adds Quinterno. "By removing even more demand for goods and services from the economy, sizable reductions in public spending will result in greater levels of joblessness and postpone any recovery. The result: more monthly employment reports like today's."

For More Information, Contact: John Quinterno, 919-622-2392 (mobile).

The NC Budget & Tax Center provides timely, accessible and credible analysis of state and local budget and tax issues with a special focus on the impact on low- and moderate-income North Carolinians.