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Jobs Coming to Needy Rocky Mount

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ROCKY MOUNT — With all the growth the Triangle is experiencing, unemployment is almostnon-existent. But an hour east, a community has four times the unemployment in spite of recent growth.

Like most cities near the Triangle, Rocky Mount is becoming a magnet fornew business. The twin-county city is one of the most progressive communities east of Raleigh. But it's hard to tell that to Joyce Saunderswho, like hundreds of other people in town, is out of work.

"Most people want people with a whole lot of experience or a college degree or something like that," said Saunders.

Saunders wants a job, but isn't qualified for many of the management positionsthe new companies are bringing with them. Many workers in Rocky Mountthought they'd spend the rest of their lives in manufacturing or textiles.Since 1995, such companies have laid off nearly 3000 people, opting forcheaper labor in other countries.

The shifting job market is pushing many people back to the classroom. Atthe Rocky Mount branch of Edgecombe Community College, enrollment was up10 percent last year, nearly three times more than the state average.

Melinda Sledge believes school may be her best bet for landing the jobshe wants.

"Most of the companies now, they're going to computers," said Sledge. "They need people with computer skills."

In spite of the high unemployment rate, the local job service says the jobs that are available are paying better. Last month, more than half thejobs posted with the employment security commission paid more than $30,000a year.

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