03/22/09 — Jobless rate 9.2; but better news ahead

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Jobless rate 9.2; but better news ahead

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on March 22, 2009 2:00 AM

Unemployment in Wayne County jumped more than a percentage point in January to a 20-year high of 9.2 percent as rates rose in all 100 of North Carolina's counties.

The rate, which rose 1.3 percent from 7.9 percent in January, is the highest the county has seen since "the very early '80s," said Bill Pate, manager of the Employment Security Commission's Goldsboro branch.

"It jumped higher than I thought it would go to," he said. "But it's pretty consistent with the trend in the rest of the state."

And, actually, it's below the state rate of 10.3 percent.

Still, Pate said he is hopeful that maybe this will be the high point.

"When we were at this rate, I was looking out my door and seeing 40 people a day, five days a week filing initial claims," he said. "That's 200 people a week. We were backed up for a while."

Now, he said, the number of people filing new claims is closer to 80 a week.

"We've caught up now," he said. "Probably most of the people who filed then are still filing and drawing benefits, but I see this as a positive trend. We've certainly plateaued in terms of new claims.

"By the time we see the March numbers, I think it'll be trending down. I know I've seen some job posting from manufacturers I have not seen in a long time. So I think that we are beginning to turn a corner just a little. I certainly hope so anyway."

Still, the rate is significantly higher than it was a year ago, when the January 2008 mark sat at 4.9 percent.

Across the state, however, no county is below 5 percent unemployment, while 28 are between 5 percent and 10 percent and 72 are above 10 percent.

The highest rate is in Dare County at 17.3 percent. The lowest is in Orange County at 5.8 percent.

Counties surrounding Wayne also reported significant increases, with Duplin climbing from 7.7 percent to 10.9 percent, Greene increasing from 7.7 percent to 9.6 percent, Johnston going up from 8 percent to 9.8 percent, Sampson increasing from 7.1 percent to 8.9 percent, and Wilson climbing from 9.4 percent to 12 percent.