LAURINBURG — Scotland County had the highest unemployment rate for the month of August, according to data from the state Department of Commerce.
The unemployment rate for Scotland for August was 7.7 percent, up just slightly from 7.6 percent the previous month.
The county’s labor force is currently at 11,224, with 862 people looking for work in August. Buncombe County even while holding the states’ lowest unemployment rate of 3.4 percent, has 4,655 people without jobs.
Scotland’s unemployment rate was 9.3 in August 2016.
“We have seen great improvement from this time last year,” said county Economic development director Mark Ward. “That is way to look at it — yes it is hard having the highest unemployment rate in the state, but that how you have to look at it.”
North Carolina had a jobless rate of 4.5 percent for August. Unemployment rose in 26 North Carolina counties, fell in 25 and remained unchanged in 49, with 218,650 jobless out of a labor force of 4,904,622.
State commerce officials advise focusing on annual changes rather than monthly differences due to seasonal patterns.
In surrounding counties, Robeson County had the state’s fifth highest unemployment percentage at 6.6.; Moore County has a rate of 4.4 percent; Hoke County has a rate of 5.7 percent; and Richmond County has an unemployment rate of 6 percent.
Ward said the announcement of 76 jobs being lost with Blue Scope Buildings in Laurinburg were not reflected in the figures, as the plant plans to operate through November.
Additionally the 46 jobs created through Edwards Wood Products expansion was not included in the latest report. Ward also pointed out the 65 jobs Mountaire Farms will be bringing to the county in 2019.
According to Ward, the county is moving in the right direction with another project potential creating 45 to 50 jobs in the next 60 to 90 days.
“We have the potential of adding 300 jobs from some projects,” Ward said, who explained he is talking with people “that say they like what they saw in Scotland County and we are in the running.”
Ward hopes by this time next year, Scotland County will be ranked between 75 and 80 on the list of county unemployment rates.
“If you can do a 25 percent increase in a year, you are moving in the right direction. I believe that is a realistic goal.”
The next unemployment update is scheduled for Oct. 20 when the rate for September will be released.