Unemployment Rate Continues Downward Track
The unemployment rate in Moore County dropped slightly in October for the fourth straight month, a further sign that the local economy continues to slowly emerge from the recession.
The rate fell one-tenth of a percent to 8.2 percent.
"Overall, a one-tenth of a percentage point drop is positive, but it's not the kind of thing that is earth-shattering," says Gene Norton, manager of the Aberdeen branch of the N.C. Employment Security Commission (ESC). "The fly in the ointment will be the outcome of the holiday shopping season."
Norton says seasonal hiring is currently at its peak, and he will be closely monitoring that over the next three months.
"We normally see a fair amount of layoffs the week after Christmas," he says. "Hopefully, this year we won't see as many. I'm hoping that a lot of these seasonal jobs will pan out into continued employment for a lot of people, but many retail stores will not be able to retain everyone."
New job opportunities would be a welcome sign for the 2,980 people in the county who were out of work in October, when the county had a labor force of 36,562 people, of which 33,582 were employed.
Norton says the November and December unemployment rates will give him a better sign of where the economy is headed.
"If they continue to improve, then we may be able to draw some conclusions," he says. "We're just not seeing any job growth - jobs that we didn't have before - right now. We're seeing some increase in new jobs, but that is being cancelled out by layoffs."
Norton will also be interested to see if holiday spending has "a snowball effect" in the county.
"The money being spent is going to someone's pockets," he notes. "Hopefully, that will mean extra spending down the road."
Unemployment rates dropped in 66 of North Carolina's 100 counties in October as the state rate fell slightly from 9.7 percent the previous month to 9.6 percent. The rates increased in 18 counties and remained the same in 16.
"However, one-third of the counties had rates greater than 10 percent in October," ESC Chairman Lynn R. Holmes says. "While the October data reflected a slight decline in the unemployment rate, the total industry employment was flat."
Moore County fared better in October than all but one of its neighbors. Scotland County again had the state's highest unemployment rate at 14.7 percent.
Lee, Montgomery and Richmond counties had double-digit rates, while Cumberland, Harnett, Hoke and Randolph counties had rates ranging from 8.6 percent to 9.8 percent. Only Chatham County had a lower rate than Moore at 6.4 percent.
"Things are much better in Moore County than they are in surrounding counties, and that's another positive for us," Norton says.
Over the year, the unemployment rates dropped in 90 counties, remained the same in four, and increased in six, according to the ESC.
"We continue to face economic challenges with respect to job growth," Holmes says. "However, North Carolina's economy has added over 15,000 jobs since December 2009."
Overall, the unemployment rate in Moore County is down almost 3 percentage points from its peak last February of 11.1 percent, and is the lowest it has been since being at 8 percent in December 2008.
"Those are all signs that the economy is changing, but it's a slow process, much slower than it has been coming out of past recessions," Norton says. "There's nothing out there that indicates the economy will be boosted in a big way."
Still, he acknowledges that some local businesses are hiring.
"But it's mainly companies that are filling turnover," Norton says. "We may have a boom on our hands by summer time, but only time will tell."
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