Cover Story: NC's 100 counties see unemployment drop

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - New numbers out Friday, and for the first time since North Carolina started keeping records, unemployment has dropped in all 100 counties in the state.

That's good news, but we're certainly not out of the woods just yet.  87 counties still have double digit unemployment rates.

In fact, the only North Carolina county in the WBTV viewing area that's not in double digits right now is Watauga, sitting at eight-point-seven.

It's the news we've been hoping we would see.

And as far as we know it's never happened before.  The was a time in March and April in 2006 when 99 counties say their unemployment rates drop, but never all 100 counties in North Carolina.

Her enthusiasm for her new job is contagious.

Unemployed for most of last year as Holly Gryder was she appreciates what she has now and can't wait to come to work.

"It was an incredibly challenging experience," she says.

33 years old, college-educated, who always worked-- she was laid off last March when companies and business all across the country were shedding jobs.

It was the worst feeling, she says.  "Everybody tells you that your job or your occupation is a significant part of your identity.. but until you're in a position to where you're kinda missing that piece.. it's really difficult to imagine what that feels like."

Two months ago she got a job with UNC Charlotte in the University's Continuing Education program.  A position paid for through stimulus dollars.

Now she helps people like herself, professionals. get retooled and retrained to get back in the workforce.

Employment growth continues to concentrate in the state's larger metropolitan areas.  The Charlotte metro area has gained 5,300 jobs.  Raleigh added 2,300 positions.  Greensboro gained 1,800 jobs.

What happened in March hasn't happened before.  All 100 counties in the state saw their unemployment rates drop.  That includes Mecklenburg county, which went from 11-point-8 in February to 11-point-1 in March.  Mecklenburg still has one of the highest jobless rates in the state.

The highest unemployment rate in North Carolina is in Graham county.  Its jobless rate went from a 19-point-4 percent in February to 17-point-2 in March.

"We've been told that there's been some movement that some of that movement started in January. But because numbers take a little time to readjust I think we're just getting to the point to where we're seeing some of that impact," says Gryder.

Across the country first-time claims for jobless benefits fell sharply last week, evidence that employers are cutting fewer workers as the economy recovers.

What advice would a new hire say to someone waiting to be hired?

"It hasn't always been this way. And it's not always going to be this way," says Gryder.  "For a lot of people who've been out of work for six months, a year.. two years.. it feels like things are never going to get better. It's super imperative to never give up."

The North Carolina Employment Security Commission cautioned that the county unemployment rates released Friday could fluctuate when they're seasonally adjusted.

But the unemployment office says this is certainly welcome news, but we still have a long way to go.

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