Despite Scotland County’s unemployment rate — the highest in the state for the fourth month counting — local job seekers are not discouraged by the numbers.
“They’re doing what they’ve always done: asking us what we have available today,” said Betty Galloway, manager of Scotland County’s Division of Employment Security/JobLink office. “The actual job seekers never focus on the rate - they don’t even want to know what the rate is.”
According to a North Carolina Department of Commerce report, Scotland County maintained its June unemployment rate of 17.6 percent into July. Scotland has had North Carolina’s highest unemployment rate since April, when Graham County held an unemployment rate of 18.5 percent.
Jobs in neighboring areas can be a windfall to Scotland County’s job seekers as well, and the employment situation statewide has improved slightly from where it was this time last year.
“Our job is employment; we’re trying to get them connected with employment, so that’s what we focus on,” said Galloway. “We try to look at other areas, expanding our work search to see if there are any jobs available that match their skill.”
Unemployment rates decreased in 47 of North Carolina’s 100 counties in July, increased in 26 and remained the same in 27. When compared to the same month last year, unemployment rates declined in 94 counties, increased in four, and remained the same in two.
“Rates either dropped or remained the same in most of North Carolina in July,” said state Department of Commerce Deputy Secretary Dale Carroll. “Compared to the same time last year, nearly all of the state’s counties have a lower unemployment rate. We will continue our statewide effort between employers, our workforce partners and our employment service offices to put people back to work.”
With 17.6 percent, Scotland County is below its July 2011 unemployment rate of 18.3 percent, due in part to individuals travelling outside of the county to work.
“A lot of folks have been going to the House of Raeford in Hoke County or taking the human resource development class and going to the Smithfield plant in Tar Heel,” said Galloway. “We have a major schedule we get every week for Smithfield with a certain number of slots for the Laurinburg office, Rockingham, and Lumberton and we refer them.”
Many job-seekers take the 20-hour human resource development class, which is required of all Smithfield plant applicants, although doing so does not guarantee them a job. The class focuses on professionalism and conduct in the workplace, and is offered through Richmond, Sandhills, and Robeson community colleges.
“I’ve had people to do it who aren’t even interested in applying for Smithfield,” Galloway said.
Currituck County had the state’s lowest unemployment rate in July at 4.7 percent, the only county with an unemployment rate under 5 percent. With an unemployment rate of 15.2 percent, Graham County was Scotland’s runner-up for highest in the state.
Although the unemployment rate may indicate that there are no jobs to be had for unemployed members of the workforce, that hasn’t stopped indefatigable job-seekers from knocking on the door at ESC.
“Most of them know that they haven’t heard of any major manufacturing locating in Scotland County so they have the same questions: Who’s hiring today? Ya’ll got any job orders?” Galloway said.