Scotland County takes top rate
Scotland County's unemployment rate hit a historic high last month, increasing to 13.9 percent for the month of December, according to statistics released Friday by the state Employment Security Commission. The adjusted rate for November was 13 percent. J.D. Willis, chairman of the Scotland County Commissioners, said the jump was to be expected.
"I would probably have expected the rate to have been up a little higher than normal," Willis said. "Several companies went to short time, therefore, employees could not work 40 hours a week, leaving them eligible to sign up for unemployment to make up for the rest of their salary. That contributed significantly to the rate increase."
Willis wants the citizens of Scotland County to know that authorities are working their hardest to locate more jobs for the area.
"The county commissioners, the city council members, the chamber of commerce, the Scotland County Economic Development Cooperation along with North Carolina South East Economic Cooperation are working constantly, trying to locate new industries and more jobs for Scotland County."
Willis said that locally, "we are providing all of the incentives that we possibly can in order to bring more jobs to Scotland County. We give the maximum incentive that we can provide to industries locating in our county."
Despite the efforts of local agencies, Willis had a gloomy forecast for the immediate future.
"Things will probably get worse in Scotland county over the next three to six months before they get better, from an employment standpoint," Willis said.
County Commissioner Bob Davis sees the unemployment rate as a national problem.
"Its not something that's unique to Scotland County - it's nationwide," Davis said, adding "I think it is going to get worse before it gets better.
"We're actively involved in trying to recruit people to come to Scotland County," Davis said.
Davis pointed to Gryphon Group coming to Scotland County as one positive recruitment outcome, noting that it will likely add several million dollars in revenue to the county each year once the training company opens up shop at the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport.
"There are a couple of others in the work that I am not at liberty to discuss," Davis added.
Davis also mentioned the recent Chamber retreat, noting that the group discussed infrastructure and what the community can do in the long-term to attract people and businesses.
Across North Carolina, 97 counties saw a rise in unemployment with one-third of North Carolina counties now dealing with double-digit unemployment rates, and the situation is expected to spread in the coming months.
The ESC reported that the number of counties with double-digit jobless rates doubled to 34 in December, from 17 counties the month before. Big layoffs are everywhere, but especially in manufacturing, which generates about a fifth of North Carolina's total business activity. Earlier this month, truck maker Freightliner announced it was eliminating 1,400 workers at plants in Rowan and Gaston counties.
"Every corner of North Carolina is feeling the effects of the national economy. Layoffs and cutbacks have taken a toll on many of our sectors, including retail during the holiday season, professional and business services, along with construction and manufacturing,” said ESC Chairman Moses Carey Jr. “In our offices throughout the state, the ESC is helping those who have filed a claim or are in need of other services like worker retraining.”
After Scotland, Edgecombe County has the second highest rate at 13.8 percent, followed by Rutherford with a 12.8 percent rate, Cherokee with a 12.7 percent rate, Anson with a 12.6 percent rate and McDowell with a 12.2 percent rate. Orange County has the lowest rate at 4.8 percent, followed by Watauga at 5.7 percent. Neighboring counties of Richmond and Robeson County are both over the state average at 11.9 and 9.7 percent respectively, while Moore and Hoke counties are both below the state average at 7.9 and 7.6 percent. So far this year, $1,368,659 has been collected in Unemployment Benefits in Scotland County, according to the ESC website.
South Carolina's unemployment rate jumped by more than a point to 9.5 percent in December, according to that state's ESC. Marlboro County, which ranks number four in South Carolina, has a 16.9 percent unemployment rate, a two point increase over November. South Carolina's top county for unemployment is Allendale, with a 19.7 percent rate.