LAURINBURG – Scotland County is no longer dead last in its rate of unemployment.
But we’re close.
According to the most recent data from the North Carolina Department of Commerce, Scotland County held the second highest jobless rate in the state for November.
Scotland County reported 7.9 percent unemployment for November. That rate is up from 7.2 percent in October. The report shows a labor force of 11,407 for Scotland County with 906 of those being unemployed.
Tyrrell County on the coast held the distinction of having the top unemployment rate at 8.1 percent for November. Buncombe County reported the lowest figures at 3.4 percent.
Overall unemployment rates rose in 99 of the North Carolina’s 100 counties for the month of November, according to the report.
North Carolina was one of only two states to see unemployment rates rise in November, jumping to 4.3 percent.
The state Commerce Department said the increase from October’s 4.1 percent rate pushed the jobless measure to its highest level since May, when it was 4.5 percent. Only North Dakota also saw an unemployment rate increase in November.
North Carolina had a better-than-average increase in employment over the year, adding 71,500 jobs since November 2016. But number of employed people fell by nearly 3,300 between October and November.
Scotland County’s jobless rate for the same period in 2016 was 9 percent.
Hard to explain
Scotland County Economic Development Corporation Director, Mark Ward, said Scotland’s increase was hard to explain, but said that the closure of Bluescope Steel may have played a small role.
“I think their last date of employment was Nov. 15, but a lot of them were offered jobs at Edwards or jobs at other Bluescope facilities,” Ward said. “Some of them may have started filing for unemployment in November, so that could be part of it.”
Ward said that the numbers are also baffling because a few local plants are hiring. Cascades, Railroad Friction and FCC all have positions open.
John Lowery, regional operations director for the Employment Security Commission said the jump could have come from a combination of factors.
If a person’s unemployment benefits have run out and if they are not actively looking for work, they are not counted in the jobless rate. If they begin to look for work again using the ESC they are once again counted.
“Some people will stop looking for work and they go uncounted, but when they get back into the job market and are looking for work, we see an uptick in unemployment,” Lowery said. “This and layoffs at Bluescope could be a contributing factor.”
According to Lowery, Service Thread, FCC and Campbell Soup have jobs listed on NC Works with openings from general laborers to skilled positions.
These and other jobs can be applied for through ncworks.gov.
“We always encourage people to go to our career center and let us talk with them and assess them and see if there’s a particular job they should apply for,” Lowery said. “We have opportunities for training and school, and if you’re looking for a job, we can help you update your resume.”
The ESC has also partnered with St. Andrews University to put together a job fair on March 15. Thirty five companies have confirmed to set up booths, according to Lowery.
Neighboring Richmond County also showed an increase in unemployment. The number rose from 5.5 percent in October to 6.1 percent from 5.5 percent for November. In Robeson County numbers increased from 6.1 percent to 6.5 percent.
An update on jobs numbers for December will be released on Jan. 23.
Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169