Unemployment Edges Up in November
TED M. NATT JR.
After four straight months of dropping slightly, the unemployment rate in Moore County increased six-tenths of a percentage point to 8.8 percent in November.
"I don't know what caused it to go up," says Gene Norton, manager of the Aberdeen branch of the N.C. Employment Security Commission (ESC). "November is normally a good month for hiring because we see retail picking up significantly for the holiday shopping season. But for some reason it didn't show up in the figures that came out for November.
"It's not a good step, but I think it would be premature to draw conclusions. I'm not too concerned because it happened all across the country."
Norton says his "gut feeling" is that there were seasonal quirks in November that aren't reflected in the recent figures, which are not seasonally adjusted.
"We have not seen any significant layoffs," he says. "We have not seen a spike in the number of unemployment claims being filed. We did not see a drop in job openings. We should not say the economy is going downhill again."
In fact, Norton believes that long-term hiring may be just around the corner because local staffing companies have doubled their business in the past year.
"When staffing companies start doing well that's usually a good sign," he says. "Businesses don't want the increased expense until it's absolutely necessary. They may need to hire, but they're skeptical that the increased business will continue, so they go the route of staffing companies."
Sibyl Marrero, supervisor at the Mega Force Staffing Group office in Southern Pines, says their business has increased significantly in the past three months.
"It's doubled from this time last year," Marrero says. "A lot of our clients are forecasting steady and new business through the end of 2011. And some companies are picking up additional shifts."
Marrero adds that Mega Force never stopped hiring through the recession.
"Even when they were saying there weren't jobs, there were jobs," she says. "We're always hiring. A lot of people don't know we are here and it is a free service to the people applying. We have part-time, full-time and temp-to-permanent openings. There are all types of opportunities."
That is good news for the 3,198 people in Moore County who were unemployed in November.
"We're an extra set of eyes and ears, just like the ESC," Marrero says. "It's definitely a good option if you're looking for work."
Ironically, even though the unemployment rate in North Carolina edged up slightly to 9.7 percent in November, the state fell below the national average for the first time in more than a year.
"Obviously, whatever caused ours to go up had the same effect elsewhere," Norton says.
Unemployment rates increased in all but one of the state's 100 counties in November, but ESC Chairman Lynn R. Holmes points out that rates have declined in 81 counties in the past year.
"Consistent job growth continues to be a goal for this state," Holmes says. "As we work toward that goal, the ESC will be here to assist our citizens. Our offices statewide are working hard to place people into jobs and assist those who are eligible for unemployment benefits."
Once again, Moore County fared better than its neighbors. Scotland, Richmond, Montgomery, Lee, Randolph and Harnett counties had double-digit unemployment rates in November. Cumberland and Hoke counties were at 9.2 percent and 9.4 percent, respectively. Only Chatham County had a rate lower than Moore at 7 percent.
"When recessions start, unemployment rates are the first to be hit and the last to come back," Norton says. "Maybe in a couple of months we can see some significant signs of improvement. We'll have to wait for the December and January numbers to actually see how things go.
"If the rate continues to do drop, then obviously we'll assume we have a problem."
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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