Unemployment across the 18 westernmost counties of North Carolina increased in January — just as it did in the Asheville metropolitan statistical area — according to data recently released by the state employment office.
The N.C. Department of Commerce’s Labor and Economic Analysis Division released the rates for all 100 counties and 14 metro areas last week. The data show that between December and January, unemployment increased in all the state’s metros and in 96 counties. It remained the same in two counties and decreased in two others.
All unemployment figures were lower than the same month last year, however.
Carolina Public Press recently reported on whether changes to long-term unemployment benefits and the numbers of people in the labor force have impacted the region’s unemployment rates.
The region’s highest unemployment rate was posted in Graham County, which reached 14.4 percent. It was followed by Swain County, which posted a rate of 12.3 percent. Those two counties were the only ones of the 18 WNC counties with double-digit unemployment. Swain County also posted the largest over-the-month increase in unemployment, showing that joblessness increased by 2.6 percent between December and January.
The lowest unemployment rates in the region were found in Polk (4.9 percent), Buncombe (5.2 percent) and Henderson (5.3 percent) counties.
The Asheville metropolitan statistical area — which is comprised of Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson and Madison counties — posted a January unemployment rate of 5.4 percent, the second-lowest in the state. That rate rose slightly from its December unemployment rate of 5 percent.
According to the department, the statewide number of workers employed in January rose by 2,817 to more than 4.3 million. Those unemployed increased by 19,728 to nearly 325,600.
The state unemployment rate for February 2014 is expected to be released on March 28.