Tuesday, July 30, 2013 11:33 PM
Unemployment edges up to 13.1 percent
By Corey Friedman | Times Online Editor
College and high school students seeking summer jobs nudged Wilson County’s unemployment rate to 13.1 percent in June, state officials said Tuesday.
Unemployment saw a slight bump from the 13 percent reported in May, giving Wilson County the state’s fifth-highest unemployment rate. Joblessness rose in 81 of North Carolina’s 100 counties in June, which officials say follows a seasonal trend.
"Summers are typically the time when people enter the labor force looking for temporary work, so you’re going to see that fluctuation,” N.C. Division of Employment Security spokesman Larry Parker said.
Figures released Tuesday show that Wilson County’s labor force increased to 41,893 workers. The number of employed workers rose by 202 and the number of unemployed job-seekers increased by 92.
"Over the month, the labor force increased, the number of people employed increased and the number of people unemployed increased,” Parker said. "That’s why there was really no significant change for the rate this month.”
One-tenth of a percent isn’t considered a statistically significant increase, but Wilson County saw a jump from 12.3 percent in April to a full 13 percent in May.
Neighboring counties fared worse than Wilson in June, with unemployment jumping from 12.1 percent to 12.6 percent in Nash, rising from 14.1 percent to 14.5 percent in Edgecombe, climbing from 9.1 percent to 9.5 percent in Pitt, rising from 9 percent to 9.2 percent in Wayne and increasing from 10.4 percent to 10.7 percent in Greene.
Edgecombe County has the third-highest unemployment rate in North Carolina, state data shows. Wilson County had the fourth-highest rate in May, but Halifax County edged past with an increase from 12.9 percent to 13.5 percent in June.
Scotland County in south-central North Carolina had the state’s highest unemployment at 16.2 percent. Currituck County in the state’s northeastern corner had the lowest jobless number, with 5.8 percent of the labor force out of work.
Among North Carolina’s metropolitan areas, Rocky Mount had the highest unemployment at 13.3 percent and Asheville saw the lowest at 7.1 percent.
Though Wilson County’s official unemployment rate stands just above 13 percent, analysts say functional unemployment may be more than twice as high, with up to three in 10 county residents out of work.
Allan Freyer, a public policy analyst for the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center, said a more accurate unemployment picture is the raw percentage of residents ages 16-64 who have jobs. In Wilson County, that figure stood at 69.6 percent in May, leaving about 31.3 percent of the county’s working-age population unemployed.
State unemployment figures are derived from labor market surveys, Freyer said, and discouraged job-seekers who have stopped looking for work aren’t counted.
The Budget and Tax Center is a project of the left-leaning N.C. Justice Center, but conservative think tanks agree the three-in-10 figure is closer to an accurate picture.
"I think unemployment is underreported,” Civitas Institute President Francis DeLuca told The Wilson Times for a July 12 story. "All the numbers are hiding a bigger problem, and that’s the lack of jobs and the number of people who are leaving the work force.”
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