LAURINBURG — Statistics released this month from the North Carolina Department of Commerce show that the state’s unemployment rate has made a slight improvement from September to October, dropping .3 percentage points to 8 percent.
Scotland County’s rate, too, dropped this August to 15.2 percent, according to Larry Parker, a public information officer with the department. Because the department was closed during the government shutdown, numbers for September and October will not be available until Dec. 5.
Despite the upswing from 16.7 percent in 2009, the county’s rate remains the highest in the state, with1,951 of a 12,806-person labor force unemployed. Edgecombe County reported a rate of 13 percent, with 3,062 of its 23,561-person work force out of a job.
There were 22 counties with unemployment rates at 10 percent or above.
In Laurinburg alone, unemployment was at 17.1 percent in August 2012. That number dropped to 16.1 this July and again in August to 15.2, on par with the county’s rate.
According to Parker, the county lost about 800 of its workforce since 2009, and more than 75,811 of the workforce in North Carolina has either retired, moved, or stopped looking for a job, which could be a reason for the lower rate. But, North Carolina as a whole has added more than $80,000 jobs over the past year.
“I think the trend is to not so much to look at the labor force, but to look at what employers are doing, and obviously they’ve added jobs,” he said.
Parker also said a trend in county unemployment rates is hard to identify because rates are not seasonally adjusted.
Anywhere from about $800,000 to $9 million in unemployment benefits were paid to Scotland County residents from September 2012 to August 2013, according to the August report.
According to a county profile, also released this month from the state Commerce Department, 10,296 people in Scotland County are living below the poverty level. In 2012, those working at the heads of companies or enterprises made the most, at an average of $918 per week. Those working in food service made the least, at $239 per week.
The unemployment rate nationally ticked up to 7.3 percent from 7.2 percent, in part because of the 16-day partial government shutdown. The shutdown caused temporary layoffs among government workers and some contractors.
North Carolina’s rate drop was one of the largest in the nation. Nevada remains the state with the highest unemployment in the nation, at 9.3 percent, down from 9.4 in September. Rhode Island, Illinois, Michigan and California all have rates well over 8 percent.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.