Scotland County relinquished the distinction of holding North Carolina’s highest unemployment rate according to the latest figures released by the state.
The state Department of Commerce said the county’s unemployment rate in November actually rose to 15.9 percent from 15.8 percent the previous month. But the overall percentage is nearly two percent lower than it was in November 2011.
Scotland County had the highest rate of unemployment in North Carolina from May to October, but was displaced in November by Graham County.
Of the county’s 13,010-member labor force, 2,068 were unemployed and actively seeking work in November. While the number of jobless persons decreased, so did the number of people employed, totalling a 900 person labor force reduction, according to Department of Commerce spokesman Larry Parker.
“Both categories in your labor force have gone down over the year,” Parker said. “People lave the labor force for a lot of reasons: they can give up looking for work, they can find work in another county, they can retire… Small changes in parts of the labor force can have an impact on the unemployment rate.”
The unemployment rate in Graham County, a county of 8,000 people bordering Tennessee, was 16.3 percent. Graham County was among the counties to surpass Scotland County’s unemployment rate from January through April of 2012, Scotland having had the highest rate for most of 2011. The fluctuation in employment in counties that depend heavily upon tourism is usually related to seasonal trends.
“The coastal counties shoot up during the wintertime just because there aren’t a lot of folks going there,” said Parker. “Some of the western counties in the state can have the same thing depending on what they’re doing for tourism. Any small change in a county that has a labor force of under 4,000 can have a quick impact on the unemployment rate.”
The unemployment rates in 34 North Carolina counties were at or below the statewide rate of nine percent. At 5.7 percent, Orange County held the lowest rate of unemployment in the state. In November 2011, the statewide jobless rate was 10.1 percent.
Though 6,570 people statewide who were employed in October found themselves jobless in November, the numbers are more encouraging than they were a year ago. The number of workers employed has increased 125,400 since November 2011. Compared to rates a year ago, unemployment in 95 counties is lower than it was in November 2011.
In neighboring counties, Hoke County held an 8.8 percent unemployment rate in November, with Richmond at 12.2 percent, Robeson at 12.2 percent, and Moore at 8.3 percent.