Local News

Unemployment is Up in Tobacco Farming Counties

Posted June 29, 1998

— The threat of legislation is hitting home in North Carolina's tobacco towns. New unemployment numbers have risen in many tobacco counties and some blame the job losses on the golden leaf's uncertain future.

At this time of year, there's little work to be done in tobacco fields. The plants are still growing, and won't be ready for harvesting for a few weeks yet. Most seasonal workers will be hired back at that time, but for now, those workers are idle. Many worry that, if tobacco legislation gets more restrictive, hundreds of workers in Wilson, Nash, Johnston ane Edgecombe counties will be forced to seek work elsewhere.

Unemployment goes up every year at this time in those counties, because seasonal workers are traditionally laid off until the tobacco market opens in late July.

"Tobacco is very important in Wilson County and surrounding counties," says Doug Barnes of the Employment Security Commission. "We have hundreds of workers who make the majority of their annual income either working in the growing and selling of tobacco or the buying and processing of tobacco on the other end."

Some might say it's easy to find a job doing something else, but many of the seasonal workers lack the skills to work in other arreas. For many of them, there aren't other options without further education or training.

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