Local News

N.C. unemployment hits 25-year high

Posted December 19, 2008 10:16 a.m. EST
Updated December 19, 2008 5:31 p.m. EST

— North Carolina’s unemployment rate increased to 7.9 percent in November, the highest level in 25 years, according to figures released Friday by the state Employment Security Commission.

Unemployment statewide was 7.1 percent in October. The 0.8 percent increase month-to-month also was the largest jump in unemployment this year.

“Global and national economic challenges have had an impact on North Carolina,” ESC Chairman Harry Payne Jr. said in a statement. “Many employers are faced with layoffs or (are) cutting back hours. Several job areas, including manufacturing and professional and business services, have been affected by the national business climate. During the last year, employment in those sectors alone is down by 57,600.”

Nationwide, the unemployment rate was 6.7 percent in November.

Seasonally adjusted employment statewide decreased by 58,621workers, to 4.2 million. Unemployment increased by 35,828 workers, to 359,319. The number of workers who are unemployed, but actively seeking work is at an all-time high, state officials said.

Waldo Murray said he has been out of work for four months.

"I'm surviving. I'm still making it, and I'm going to keep on but it's hard," Murray said. "I've been in the job since '91. I've seen (the economy) go up, (and) I've seen it go down. This looks worse to me than in the past."

Alton Smith, who has been unemployed for five months, said he has learned to be patient during his job search.

"If we can't get a full-time job, (I'll take) some seasonal full-time, seasonal part-time," Smith said.

Wayne Beverly, who oversees the unemployment office in Raleigh, said this is the worst recession he's seen in more than 30 years with the ESC.

"I started in '74 (and) was here for the recession in '74, '81, '91 '01 and now this recession," Beverly said. "(This is) the worst I've had so far."

Jeannette Moss, director of Wake Technical Community College's job placement program, agrees that the current recession is deeper than any in recent memory.

"We have alumni who are being laid off who are calling me up, and they need positions," Moss said.

In the last year, unemployment statewide has increased by 145,631 people. Meanwhile, the labor force has increased by 33,332 people during the same period.

The state unemployment rate in November 2007 was 4.7 percent.

Unlike some states like Michigan that have had one sector of the economy hit especially hard, ESC Deputy Chairman David Clegg said, North Carolina has been hit across the board, especially industries that use contract employees like education, technology, health care and construction.

"You'd normally expect to see a significant uptick in part-time workers in the retail (sector), and many retailers simply did not hire those extra people," Clegg said. "North Carolina is just sort of rising and falling with the global economy."

The lone silver lining to the unemployment picture, according to Clegg, is that North Carolina's jobless are finding new jobs in an average of 14 weeks. He said that's a good rate in the current economy.

Still, Moss provides job seekers with resources and support, but she said her available listings are the fewest she's ever seen.

"(Our) average before recently had been over 200 a month new listings, and now it's a lot less," she said.