by Paige Terryberry
Senior Analyst for Fiscal Policy, John Locke Foundation
According to the latest release from the North Carolina Department of Commerce, unemployment rates decreased in all 100 of North Carolina’s counties in July.
After months of steady decreases, most counties in May and June experienced unemployment increases. The July data indicate a return to the trend of recovery for now.
This data is not seasonally adjusted, however, and therefore is subject to volatile, seasonal changes. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for July is 3.4% for example, while the non-seasonally adjusted rate is 3.7%.
North Carolina continues to boast an unemployment rate below the national average. But within the state, unemployment varies substantially.
Fourteen counties have unemployment rates above 5%, as opposed to 20 in June and 15 in May. The highest county unemployment rate is 7.6% in Scotland County. Buncombe, Chatham, and Swain Counties each have the lowest rate at 2.9%.
The state’s higher unemployment counties are concentrated in the northeast and southeast, and away from urban centers.
Metro areas often fare better than their rural counterparts in terms of unemployment rates. Even so, the average unemployment rate for North Carolina’s metro areas is 3.9%, above the state average. Though Asheville boasted a 2.9% rate for July, Rocky Mount’s rate was more than double at 6.0%.
If ongoing trends continue, North Carolina may become more urban, further diverging the state’s employment picture and potentially complicating policy solutions.