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Pitt unemployment drops in September but annual growth rate slows


Jim Kleckley


By Michael Abramowitz
The Daily Reflector

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Pitt County unemployment rate dropped slightly in September to get back on track toward the state and national labor rates.

The county’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in September was 4.5 percent, two-tenths of a percent lower than the August rate of 4.7 percent and nine-tenths of a point lower than the rate in September 2016, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the ECU Bureau of Business Research.

The turnaround, although reflecting only one month’s change, followed two consecutive months of slight increases in July and August. 

“A monthly kick up or down isn’t all that significant, but the numbers of Pitt County residents working, including those who work outside the county, indicates that the county has been doing a little better than the state recently,” ECU economist Jim Kleckley said. “We’re starting to catch up, and you’ll remember that for so long we were not recovering from the recession at the same pace as the state. These numbers suggest that, although we haven’t caught up, we’re not doing that badly.”

That also could be because the state has slowed down its employment growth since last year, Kleckley added.

“Unless something really changes, (Pitt and North Carolina) are not going to grow jobs as quickly this year as we did during the last year,” he said.

The Pitt County September rate is four-tenths of a point higher than North Carolina’s unemployment rate of 4.1 percent, unchanged from August but a full point lower than September 2016, the data indicated. The U.S. unemployment rate was 4.2 percent in September, down from 4.4 in August and seven-tenths of a point lower than the rate of September 2016.

Pitt County employed 84, 055 people in September, and increase of 305 over August, but 112 fewer than in September 2016. There were 3,967 people unemployed in the county, 98 fewer than were unemployed in August and 861 fewer unemployed than the same month in 2016, according to the report.

Pitt held onto its ranking at 62 among the state’s 100 counties in September, according to State Commerce Department records. Scotland County had the highest unemployment rate at 6.9 percent, while Buncombe County had the lowest at 3.1 percent. All 15 of the state’s metro areas experienced rate decreases. Among the metro areas, Rocky Mount at 5.8 percent had the highest rate and Asheville had the lowest rate at 3.3 percent.

North Carolina’s 4.1 unemployment rate compares less favorably to those of its neighbors in South Carolina (3.9 percent), Virginia (3.7 percent) and Tennessee (3.0 percent).

“If you look at most of our close neighbors, we aren’t doing quite as well, with the exception of Georgia (4.5 percent), but we are doing better than the United States rate,” Kleckley said. “Each area takes on different characteristics, including the labor force, the types of jobs available and the skills needed to do them.”

From 2014 to 2015, North Carolina’s job growth rate was close to 4 percent. From 2015 to 2016, it was about 2 percent and this year is shaping up to be about half again of last year’s growth rate, Kleckley said.

‘As a state, we’re still growing, but not quite as quickly as we did in previous years,” he said. “What hasn’t changed in recent years is that when times are good in the nation, North Carolina tends to grow more quickly, and when times are worse, North Carolina gets hit harder.”

September’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rates in regional counties include: Beaufort at 4.5 percent, down from 4.8 in August; Craven at 4.4, down from 4.5; Duplin at 4.5, down from 4.6; Edgecombe at at 7.0, down from 7.2; Greene at 4.2, down from 4.3; Lenoir at 4.2, unchanged; Martin at 5.1, unchanged; Nash at 4.7, unchanged; Onslow at 4.7, unchanged; Wayne at 4.7, down from 4.8; and Wilson at 6.5 percent, down from 6.7 in August.

Contact Michael Abramowitz at mabramowitz@reflector.com or 252-329-9507.