Jobless Rate Continues to Fall for Moore County
BY TED M. NATT JR.
The jobless rate for Moore County is continuing to improve and is showing levels not seen in four years.
The rate fell in October to 8 percent, down from 8.4 percent in September. The October figure represents the lowest unemployment rate since December 2008.
October's mark is a continuation of the downward momentum for unemployment locally. The county rate fell seven-tenths of a percentage point from August to September.
"It's excellent news, but you don't create a trend with one month or much of a trend for two months," said Gene Norton, manager of the N.C. Division of Employment Security (DES) office in Aberdeen. "We'd like to see this continue through the holiday shopping season. We'll see in January if we can hold on to this positive momentum and call it a trend."
Patrick Coughlin, president and CEO of the Moore County Chamber of Commerce, said he tries not to get too excited about the monthly numbers.
"Because you need to look at what's happening over a longer period of time," Coughlin said. "Any one month taken in isolation can lead one to draw inaccurate conclusions. It took us a while to get into the economic situation that we're in, and it's going to take a while to get out.
"But as long as the trend is in the right direction, we should be optimistic."
Norton said he has seen a positive bump in hiring activity by companies in southern Moore County.
"We're not seeing mass hiring going on, but a lot of companies are doing small hires," he said. "And it's not just in retail. We're seeing some hiring in manufacturing."
Moore County had a labor force of 38,561 in October, of which 35,474 had jobs, leaving 3,087 people unemployed.
Moore County fared better than all of its neighbors except Chatham County, which had an unemployment rate in October of 6.4 percent. Randolph County came in at 8.4 percent, Hoke at 8.9 percent, and Cumberland at 9.4 percent.
Harnett, Lee, Montgomery, Richmond and Scotland counties all had double-digit unemployment rates in October.
Unemployment rates decreased in 76 North Carolina counties in October, increased in 16, and remained the same in eight.
Overall, the state rate was 9.3 percent.
Nationally, the October unemployment report was broadly positive, with stronger and widespread job gains across industries.
"However, structural impediments to the current labor recovery persist, reminding us that this recovery is different and quite limited for some workers," John E. Silvia, chief economist for Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, said in a recent newsletter.
Silvia noted that while unemployment has edged down over the past year, falling to 7.9 percent from 8.9 percent, long-term unemployment remains "staggeringly high" at 5 million workers.
"Workers unemployed for 26 weeks or more continue to comprise an unprecedentedly high rate of those out of work at more than 40 percent," he said. "Moreover, the duration of unemployment remains near historic highs."
Silvia said the median bout of unemployment in October stretched nearly 20 weeks, while the average rose back above 40 percent.
"The vast gulf between the median and the average suggests that there is a small subset of workers who have been out of work significantly longer than 40 weeks," he said. "Evidence has shown that the longer a worker is unemployed, the more difficult it is to become re-employed, and the more likely an exit from the labor force."
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or tnatt @thepilot.com.
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