01/07/09 — Jobless rate hits 7.2 here in Wayne

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Jobless rate hits 7.2 here in Wayne

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on January 7, 2009 1:46 PM

The unemployment rate in Wayne County rose in November to 7.2 percent, overtaking the previous 17-year high of 6.9 percent set last July.

"It's the highest it's been since the early 1980s," said Bill Pate, manager of the local office of the Employment Security Commission.

The new rate reflected a 0.7 percent increase from Octo-ber's jobless rate of 6.5 percent, and the numbers for December may be even higher.

"We took more claims in December than November," Pate said.

The Employment Security Commission is so busy, the office has hired five part-time workers to help process all the claims, he said.

"When you start seeing a trend, then you start to worry," Pate said. "I think it'll continue."

In the last 30 days, Wayne County residents received $1,795,146 in unemployment benefits, $620,000 more than during the previous 30-day period.

Case Farms, Butterball and the Franklin Baking Co. are among Goldsboro's largest companies still hiring at the moment, and people who turn to the Job Link office at the Employment Security Com-mission are sometimes placed with those employers.

But most companies are scaling back or attempting to keep their core employees, Pate said.

"It's pretty slow," he said. "Probably the fewest number of jobs since I've been here."

North Carolina lost more than 46,000 jobs in November, the largest over-the-month percentage decrease in employment in the nation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The state jobless rate in November was 7.9 percent, and the national unemployment rate in November was 6.7 percent.

Federal and state legislators have passed three unemployment benefits extensions, allowing people receiving benefits to extend their payments past the previous time limit.

Some Wayne County citizens are beginning to rely on the first extension, Pate said.

Compared to other North Carolina counties, Wayne County was only in the middle of the pack of high unemployment rates.

Seventeen N.C. counties saw double-digit unemployment rates in November. Edgecombe County had the highest jobless rate in the state at 13.3 percent, while Watauga County, at 5.1 percent, had the lowest.

Counties bordering Wayne fared no better. Duplin County saw a 1.1 percent increase in unemployment, rising to an overall 7 percent; Greene County unemployment stands at 7.8 percent following a 1.1 percent increase; Johnston County experienced a 1 percent increase, bringing the jobless rate to 7.4 percent; Lenoir County faced a 1.1 percent increase, and now a 9.1 percent unemployment rate; Sampson County saw a 1 percent increase and 6.5 percent rate and Wilson County saw a 0.8 percent increase, bringing the county to an 8.7 percent unemployment rate.

The data was not adjusted to account for seasonal employment.