02/01/09 — Wayne jobless rate rises again in December

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Wayne jobless rate rises again in December

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on February 1, 2009 2:00 AM

Wayne County's unemployment rate jumped again in December, increasing from 7.2 percent in November to 7.9 percent -- its highest point since "the early '80s" said local Employment Security Commission manager Bill Pate.

"It's been since the very early '80s since the last time we saw anything like this," he said.

In December 2007 the rate was only 4.7 percent.

"That's a big jump," Pate said.

It's also a big jump from November, when the rate was 6.5 percent.

Statewide, the unemployment rate for December was 8.5 percent, as the number of people without jobs increased in 97 of North Carolina's 100 counties.

Pate explained that the way the unemployment rolls have grown has been indicative of how every sector of the economy is slumping -- no single layoff event is driving the increase.

"It's about what I expected. We're seeing a lot of temporary claims by a lot of companies," he said.

He explained that temporary claims are filed by companies looking to hold onto their workers as they bridge a slow period.

"If they're unable to work a full schedule, they come here to file temporary unemployment for them (the workers) so they can keep them attached to the company," he said.

And right now, he continued, they're seeing companies who haven't sought that kind of help in as many as 30 years, and some companies who have never filed such claims.

"It's hurting just about everybody in the business world," he said.

But he thinks that perhaps by the time January's rates are released things will have leveled off a little bit.

"We've started to plateau in terms of the number of unemployment claims in our office," he said. "I don't know if that'll be a good thing or not."

Over the course of the last 30 days, though, he added, his office has paid out a total of $1.882 million in unemployment benefits.

"That's a lot of money," he said.

Across the state, Orange County had the lowest rate at 4.7 percent, while Scotland County had the highest at 13.9 percent.

And Wayne's neighboring counties didn't fare much better, with Duplin increasing from 7 percent to 7.7 percent; Greene decreasing from 7.8 percent to 7.7 percent; Lenoir County increasing from 9.1 percent to 9.6 percent; Sampson County increasing from 6.5 percent to 7.1 percent; and Wilson County increasing from 8.7 percent to 9.4 percent.