Local News

Housing, job markets show signs of strain

Posted July 25, 2008 4:57 p.m. EDT
Updated October 12, 2011 9:49 a.m. EDT

— Unemployment is at its highest since 2004 in some North Carolina counties, and that's just one entry in the ledger of troubling economic news.

Unemployment rose in all Triangle-area counties in the past month. In Wake County, the rate went from 4.4 percent in May to 4.8 percent in June; in Durham, it rose from 4.8 percent to 5.1 percent.

Orange County had the lowest June unemployment figures in the region – 4.6 percent – while Edgecombe County had the highest – 10.5 percent.

For job-seekers like Willia Martin, the outlook is grim. Martin, a pharmeceutical technician, has been out of work for two weeks.

"The way things is going ... my bills will be a month behind," she said Friday.

Martin spends her days looking for her next job. "I'll try anything right now," she said.

Gene Norton of the Employment Security Commission (ESC) said he has seen more people out of work, particularly in construction-related jobs and in seasonal work like landscaping.

"Even during the busy summer months, it appears employers have reduced hiring, making it a much tighter job market,” ESC Chairman Harry Payne said in a statement.

Statewide, 283,965 people were unemployed in June, and about $89.9 million in unemployment benefits was paid to 99,939 people. The state unemployment rate for June was 6.2 percent, up from 5.8 percent in May.

Economist Mike Walden at N.C. State University expects that homeowners will feel the pinch, too. As the economy stretches budgets, some are finding that sure source of wealth – the home – has dried up.

"Housing prices are going down, and people who had regular mortgages and are trying to sell their home(s), in some cases can't get enough money to cover the mortgage," he said.

That was evident in the release of foreclosures statistics Friday. While North Carolina continued to fare better than the national average, more than 10,000 homes were in foreclosure statewide, an increase of almost 60 percent over this time last year.

"We're in one of those periods where the economy's not good and its pinching everyone," Walden said.