09/28/08 — Wayne jobless rate dips slightly in August

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Wayne jobless rate dips slightly in August

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on September 28, 2008 12:21 AM

Wayne County's unemployment rate dipped slightly in August from its 17-year high of 6.9 percent in July.

However, cautioned Bill Pate, manager of the Goldsboro branch of the North Carolina Employment Security Commission, the rate's two-tenths slide to 6.7 percent doesn't necessarily mean things are looking up.

"There's not a whole lot of difference between 6.9 percent and 6.7 percent," he said. "I was a little surprised to see it go down, but that's not a statistically significant amount. It's still pretty high."

Likely, he explained, the difference is attributable to high school and college students returning to classes and thereby exiting the labor market.

The rate is the second highest Wayne County has seen since unemployment hit 8.7 percent in 1991, and it's two points higher than in August 2007 when it sat only at 4.7 percent.

The difference from last year, Pate has explained, is that even though it took a while for Wayne County's diverse economy to feel the effects, the global slowdown is finally starting to hit home.

Employers, he said, simply aren't hiring, and some, like Hilex Poly in Mount Olive in September, have even begun to look at layoffs.

"With the turmoil going on Wall Street, I think employers are just holding off, trying to see what will happen," Pate said.

But Wayne County isn't alone in its suffering. Other counties' unemployment rates also are high. Statewide, the average for August was 6.9 percent, with Scotland County clocking the highest mark at 12 percent and Currituck the lowest at 3.7 percent.

Of the counties immediately surrounding Wayne, Duplin's rate dropped from 6.6 percent in July to 5.8 percent in August, Greene dipped from 7.5 percent to 7.4 percent, Johnston ticked upward from 6.2 percent to 6.3 percent, Lenoir stayed even at 7.9 percent, Sampson fell from 5.7 percent to 5.5 percent, and Wilson move up from 8.7 percent to 8.8 percent.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate was 6.1 percent in August, up from 5.7 percent in July.