Blame the July spike in state unemployment numbers on the Class of 2017.
Just released employment figures from the N.C. Department of Commerce for the period ending July 31 indicate a statewide unemployment rate — not seasonally adjusted — stood at 4.5 percent, a jump of 0.3 percent over June’s closing numbers. While 50 counties registered unemployment rates at or below the state average, 93 counties had higher July unemployment rates compared to June 2017.
Scotland County had the highest July unemployment with 7.6 percent of its labor force sidelined while Buncombe County had the lowest rate at 3.4 percent.
In six eastern North Carolina counties — Carteret, Craven, Duplin, Jones, Lenoir and Onslow — each county experience a rise over June’s numbers except Jones which remained steady at 4.1 percent. Onslow County boarded the largest increase at 5.2 percent, a 0.6 jump over June’s rate. Carteret, Craven and Lenoir posted a 0.2 rise while Duplin edged up 0.1 percentage point. Nearby Pamlico County saw a 0.2-percent increase.
Overall, payrolls grew by 27,629 employees to 4,735,426 overall in July while unemployment increased by 13,772 people to 221,461. Since July 2016, the number of workers employed statewide increased 88,758, while those unemployed decreased 35,696, according to NCDoC.
North Carolina Department of Commerce Assistant Secretary for Communications & External Affairs North Carolina Department of Commerce Beth Ann Gargan explained the rise in the rate is a periodical occurrence due to natural demographic transitions.
“Month to month movement in county unemployment rates are strongly influenced by seasonal factors, and it’s very normal for unemployment rates to increase in July. It’s the end of the school year and the height of summer, and many new people enter the labor force at this time. Many of these folks get recorded as unemployed. But the long-term trend for North Carolina continues to be positive. Unemployment rates declined in all 100 counties compared to this time last year,” Gargan wrote in an email response to The Daily News.
At Coastal Medical Transport based in Windsor. which services clients in Greenville, Kinston and New Bern, Tamara Nichols says her company has been trying to fill six, full-time emergency medical technician positions for several weeks.
“It can be hard to find qualified candidates during the ‘dry months’ since EMT students typically come out of class usually sometime in May and again in December,” Nichols said.
Educated job seekers with bachelor’s degrees are what Pat Morrow, executive director of Craven Smart Start is seeking when trying to fill many open positions on her staff.
“Our requirements are unique because our work is unique,” Morrow said.
Morrow has seen a drop in qualified applicants submitted recently compared to last year at this time when the number unemployed in Craven was 15 percent higher than where it stands today at 4.6 percent.
“A year ago, we’d get so many more resumes compared to what we receive now,” Morrow said.
Local landscaping companies are at the height of their busy season with general lawn service in high gear and fall planting just weeks away. Mike Dunn, owner of Jacksonville-based M&M Landscaping and Hauling that has been servicing the Onslow County area for 13 years, said he’s been trying to fill a half dozen positions in his company.
“I try to employee people that need a second chance,” Dunn said in a phone interview as he was in the midst of mowing the grounds of an area apartment complex. “Once you commit the crime and do your time you should be able find employment but it’s difficult for some people who have a record to get employed.”
Dunn says he finds many people are tardy or don’t take the job serious enough.
“Some people act as if they’re owed something,” Dunn said.
The next unemployment update is scheduled for Sept. 15 at which time the August unemployment rate will be released. For more information and a complete list of 2017 employment data logon to www.nccommerce.com/lead/about-us/calendar.
Reporter Mike McHugh can be reached at 910-219-8455 or firstname.lastname@example.org.