04/02/09 — Wayne County unemployment rate increases again

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Wayne County unemployment rate increases again

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on April 2, 2009 1:46 PM

Wayne County's unemployment climbed again in February, but officials said they were encouraged by the fact it was a smaller jump than from December to January.

Reaching 9.7 percent -- up 0.6 percent from January's 9.1 percent mark -- the rate is still the highest it's been since the early 1980s, said Bill Pate, local branch manager of the N.C. Employment Security Commission.

And in fact it's more than 4 percentage points higher than it was this time last year when February 2008's rate sat at 5.1 percent.

However, Pate said, he's still hopeful that the job market is beginning to turn around, or at least stabilize.

"I'm not really surprised it stepped up a little bit," he said. "But initial claims have really begun to drop."

From a high point in December and January of about 200 new claims a week, to 50 to 60 currently, Pate said he hopes that the unemployment rate will start to level off and maybe begin dropping by the time March's numbers are released.

"I don't want to make that prediction. It may be too early to tell, but hopefully it's a good sign," he said. "Nine-point-seven percent is still unacceptable, because those who are unemployed are telling me it's 100 percent for them."

There is a bit of good news for people filing for unemployment benefits, though, he said. Starting Wednesday, people were scheduled to begin receiving an additional $25 per week, retroactive back to Feb. 28, for the rest of the year.

It's a small amount, but with unemployment rising across the state, it's an increase that will be finding its way into a number of pockets.

Across the state -- which as a whole has an unemployment rate of 11.3 percent -- Orange County had the lowest rate at 6.5 percent, while Graham County had the highest at 17.9 percent.

All total, 83 of North Carolina's 100 counties were above 10 percent.

Of those neighboring Wayne: Duplin rose from 10.5 percent to 10.9 percent, Green went from 9.6 percent to 10.2 percent, Johnston increased from 9.8 percent to 10.7 percent, Sampson rose from 8.6 percent to 9.2 percent and Wilson increased from 11.6 percent to 12.5 percent.