05/08/09 — County's jobless rate drops 0.5 percent

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County's jobless rate drops 0.5 percent

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on May 8, 2009 1:46 PM

Unemployment in Wayne County fell for the first time in nearly a year in March as the number of initial claims finally began slowing, said Bill Pate, manager of the Goldsboro branch of the N.C. Employment Security Commission.

Dropping from 9.7 percent to 9.2 percent, the rate is still among its highest levels since the early 1980s, and is still above even January's mark of 9.1 percent.

However, Pate said that it's possible the decrease is a sign of good things to come.

"It's like I said before. We've been seeing a decrease in initial claims, and we've gotten a few more job listings, so I'm not surprised to see the rate go down," he said. "There's a glimmer of light a little bit, but one month doesn't make a trend. We've got to see a trend before we can really say we're over the hump."

And, he added, he wouldn't be surprised if the rate fluctuates slightly in the coming months.

"It might stay at this level. It might bounce up and down," he said. "But I don't see it moving substantially higher or lower anytime real soon."

Even the news that Chrysler will enter bankruptcy proceedings doesn't seem to have shaken up local suppliers too much, he said -- at least not to the point that they are filing for temporary unemployment for their workers, a common practice that allows companies to hold onto their core employees.

"I have not seen any immediate response from that," Pate said.

And, even with the still slumping economy, he does expect seasonal employment to help those rates as summer draws closer.

"Nobody's going full gun, but I think the situation is better than it has been," he said.

Compared to last year, though, the numbers are still grim. In March 2008, the unemployment rate was 4.9 percent.

But, compared to other counties, Wayne is not doing too badly.

Statewide, the rate is 10.8 percent. The lowest rate in North Carolina was in Orange County, 6.1 percent. The highest was in Scotland County, 16.6 percent.

Of the counties surrounding Wayne, Duplin dropped from 10.8 percent to 10.5 percent, Green fell from 10.3 percent to 10.1 percent, Johnston fell from 10.7 percent to 10.6 percent and Sampson dropped from 9.2 percent to 8.8 percent. The sole increase was Wilson, 12.4 to 12.5 percent.