Unemployment rates climb in 99 NC counties

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  • Edgecombe County had the highest overall October unemployment rate at 7.5%
  • Rocky Mount had the highest metro area unemployment rate at 6.2%

Figures out Thursday from the N.C. Department of Commerce show that unemployment rates increased in nearly all of North Carolina’s 100 counties in October, over September’s figures.

Edgecombe County had the highest unemployment rate at 7.5%, while Orange County had the lowest at 3.1%. Only Warren County saw a drop in the unemployment rate over last month, dropping from 7.7% in September to 7.0% in October.

Statewide, the unemployment rate (not seasonally adjusted) stood at 3.9% for October, compared to 3.6% in September. That is slightly higher than the national average of 3.7%, according to numbers out Friday.

Source: N.C. Department of Commerce

“It is important to note that employment estimates are subject to large seasonal patterns; therefore, it is advisable to focus on over-the-year changes in the not seasonally adjusted estimates,” said David Rhoades of Commerce communications and external affairs, pointing to the department’s D4 site, which presents statewide employment data.

When compared to October of last year, there is some progress; unemployment rates decreased in 61 counties, increased in 30 counties, and remained unchanged in nine. Still the trend of post-COVID shutdown recovery seems to be reversing course, according to Paige Terryberry, Senior Analyst for Fiscal Policy at the John Locke Foundation.

“North Carolina’s state unemployment rate has been increasing steadily since August,” said Terryberry. “High interest rates, record inflation, and increasing household debt stoke recession fears nationally. Fortunately, conservative budget writers in North Carolina aggressively contributed to the state’s Rainy Day fund and other reserves, equipping our state to better weather an economic downturn.”

The state’s metro areas all saw increases in their unemployment rates in October over September. Rocky Mount had the highest unemployment rate at 6.2% while Asheville, Durham-Chapel Hill, and Raleigh each had the lowest at 3.3%.

While N.C.’s unemployment rate remains slightly above the national numbers, the high water mark was in April of 2020, during the height of state government shutdowns of schools and businesses. Then, the state unemployment rate was 14.2%.