Jobless Rate Drops to 9.4 Percent in February
The unemployment rate in Moore County dropped from 9.9 percent to 9.4 percent in February, but the improvement did not make up for the 1.3 percentage-point increase the previous month.
"It's always good to see the rate go down," says Gene Norton, manager of the Aberdeen office of the N.C. Employment Security Commission (ESC). "It's a sign that the economy is growing. We just need it to grow a little faster."
Norton likens recovering from a recession to watching grass grow.
"If you look at it every three weeks, you can tell that it grew," he says. "But if you look at it every day, you can't see the change."
More encouraging to Norton is the number of job openings being posted by local companies.
"It started picking up in February, and it's the most significant increase in several years," he says. "Hopefully, it's a sign that momentum is getting ready to build."
Moore was one of 93 counties in North Carolina that saw its unemployment rate improve in February. The rate remained the same in one county and rose in six counties. Last month, the rate went up in all but one county in the state.
Overall, North Carolina's unemployment rate edged down slightly from 9.8 percent to 9.7 percent in February, and the state gained 17,400 nonfarm jobs during the month, according to statistics recently released by ESC.
"We are showing signs of slow but steady progress, with job gains in February and over the year," ESC Chairman Lynn R. Holmes says. "We remain committed to assisting out-of-work citizens with training and services to get them through these hard times and back to work."
Of the counties neighboring Moore, only Chatham (6.9 percent) and Cumberland (9.2 percent) fared better than 9.4 percent. Hoke County had an unemployment rate of 9.7 percent, while Harnett, Lee, Montgomery, Randolph, Richmond and Scotland counties all had double-digit unemployment rates in February.
"Gov. Perdue has made creating jobs her top priority," Holmes says. "The work of our economic development partners in sustaining and growing jobs, along with the efforts of our work force development partners in helping people get back to work, continues to be our top priorities."
However, Norton remains concerned about pending budget shortfalls at the federal and state levels and the potential trickle-down effect at the local level. The fiscal year ends June 30.
"What will happen when all the budget repercussions shake out in July?" he says. "I'm afraid of what could happen if layoffs hit."
On the other hand, Norton is encouraged by the improving spring weather because it means that outdoor-oriented companies and golf courses will be ramping up their staffs to meet demand.
"I think you might see the unemployment rate drop slowly over the next several months," he says.
In addition, Moore County and D.H. Griffin Construction are hosting a job fair April 18 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Agricultural Center in Carthage. Those hired by D.H. Griffin or its subcontractors will help build the new county jail. Grading work began in November.
"We're trying to get as many local people on the job site as possible," says Megan Garner, the county's grants administrator.
Norton says his staff will be at the job fair to help applicants, who must bring a resume and photo ID.
"Those are good-paying jobs," he says.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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