City and state lag nation's unemployment numbers - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

City and state lag nation's unemployment numbers

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

The national unemployment rate just dropped to 7.4%. But in North Carolina it rose to 8.8%. And in Mecklenburg County it's even worse - the jobless rate jumped to 9.4%.

"If it wasn't for Mississippi, we'd have the highest rate in the South," says Mark Vitner, a senior economist for Wells Fargo. "We've had the highest rate in the south for a long time."

Since the late 90's, really, and the state's corporate tax rates have been blamed. While businesses rank North Carolina highly in terms of livability - affordable housing, good weather - our business tax climate has soured the state's reputation.

"That's one of the reasons so many folks in the state legislature were so motivated this year to do something about taxes and try to do some tax reform," Vitner says.

Governor Pat McCrory based his campaign platform on change.

"Our tax system here in North Carolina is no longer competitive with the rest of the United States," McCrory said, shortly before he was elected.

And the state legislature did just pass a plan to lower taxes for corporations.

But there's another issue.  While companies haven't exactly been flocking to North Carolina, people sure have.  In Mecklenburg County, we've actually been beating the rest of the country when it comes to job creation.

"We're adding jobs faster than the nation," Vitner says, "but we're also adding people faster than the nation."

Yet another problem - North Carolina has proven particularly vulnerable to the well documented decline in manufacturing,  the state's employment base leaning heavily on legacy industries like textile, tobacco and furniture. Over the past few years, thousands of those jobs have moved overseas.

Ryan Esovito is trying to get some back.  He's leading a grassroots campaign to raise support for locally made products.

"A lot of times people will go out and base their purchase on cost alone and they don't look at the quality or the other jobs that their affecting which are often their own," he says.

Experts say it will take a combination of public and private enterprise to improve North Carolina's situation.

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