08/01/08 — Jobless rate up in county for June

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Jobless rate up in county for June

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on August 1, 2008 1:32 PM

Unemployment is on the rise in Wayne and 81 other counties.

Wayne County's rate rose three-tenths of a percent from 5.7 in May to 6 percent in June. The unemployment rate in June 2007 was 5.1 percent.

Some surrounding counties had much worse numbers.

Wilson County climbed a half a point from its already high unemployment rate of 7.9 in May to 8.4 percent in June. In Lenoir County, the rate rose from 6.8 percent in May to 7.2 percent in June. And unemployment in Greene County held steady at its May rate of 7.1 percent.

Other surrounding counties, on the other hand, are still doing a little better.

Duplin remained at its May rate of 5.3 percent. Sampson County's rate went from 4.9 percent in May to 5 percent in June. And Johnston County rose a tad from its 5.4 percent in May to 5.6 percent in June.

And although Wayne County's 6 percent unemployment rate is still below the state's rate of 6.2 percent, local Employment Security Commission Manager Bill Pate is watching it closely.

"We're really beginning to see some softening of the economy," he said. "We've had some layoffs here and there, but nothing massive."

And for many, unemployment benefits have been running out, not just in Wayne County but across the nation.

So President George W. Bush has signed an extension for those who have exhausted their regular benefits. The extension goes a maximum of 13 additional weeks after the unemployment benefits end.

The extension became effective July 6, and Pate has been busy with that change.

He said a lot of people are coming into the Goldsboro ESC office who have exhausted their benefits and are eligible for the extension.

"On Monday between 2 and 5 p.m., we saw 43 of them, and another group of about 20 are coming this afternoon," he said Wednesday.

But there are some employers who are still recruiting, particularly the new grocery store, Carlie C's, that is hiring people to open in early September in the old Key Foods building on Wayne Memorial Drive.

"We're glad they're opening up. We've sent them a bunch of folks," Pate said. "And some other companies are still recruiting."

But still, 6 percent is the highest unemployment rate Wayne County has seen in a long time, he said.

The last time the unemployment rate rose this high was during another financial crisis following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The January 2002 rate climbed to 6.1 percent, and by July had reached 7.3 percent.

Pate blames the costs of fuel for the current economic downturn.

"I'm not saying I'm nervous," he said. "But I'm watching it closely."