05/31/09 — Wayne County unemployment down for second month in a row in April

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Wayne County unemployment down for second month in a row in April

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on May 31, 2009 12:23 AM


Assistant News Editor

Wayne County's unemployment rate dropped for the second month in a row in April, marking what officials hope might be the beginning of a trend.

However, Bill Pate, manager of the Goldsboro branch of the state Employment Security Commission, isn't getting too excited yet.

"I think you're going to see this thing bouncing up and down for a while yet, but I was glad to see it moving the other way," he said.

After a 0.5 percent decrease from February to March, the county's jobless numbers fell another 0.5 percent in April to 8.7 percent -- far below the state's 10.8 percent rate.

"There's still a lot of people on the rolls, but we're definitely seeing a leveling off of new claims," Pate said.

He also said the county is beginning to see some new job postings and some new hiring, particularly in agriculture -- including Mt. Olive Pickle Co. -- and some in construction.

He also identified local automotive suppliers as being among the weakest areas.

"They're having some problems," he said, and predicted they would as long as automakers General Motors and Chrysler are struggling. "But they're trying to keep their core employees."

Overall, though, he said, "I'm more encouraged than I have been in a while. We're just going to have to watch it."

Across the state, the lowest unemployment rate was Orange County at 5.8 percent. The highest was Scotland County with 17.3 percent.

Of those counties surrounding Wayne, Duplin's rate fell from 10.4 percent to 9.1 percent, Greene's rose from 10.2 to 10.7 percent, Johnston's dropped from 10.6 to 10.2 percent, Sampson's fell from 8.8 percent to 8.2 percent and Wilson rose from 12.5 percent to 13.2 percent.

All those rates, though, are a far cry from April 2008 when Wayne stood at 5 percent -- though even then, Pate said, the numbers had begun to rise.

"It was starting to creep. We knew what was coming," he said. "We were able to see this on the horizon."