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County unemployment rate rises slightly

SARAH LOWERY
Staff Writer

Lincoln County’s unemployment rate ticked back up for the month of May, rising to 9.5 percent from 8.7 percent a month earlier.
Not alone, the county was one of 87 statewide to see similar increases, while 12 experienced decreases and one remained unchanged, according to new figures released by the North Carolina Department of Commerce this week.
This time last year, Lincoln County’s jobless rate sat at 9.8 percent.
The new data situates the county as having the 48th lowest rate among the state’s 100 counties.
The county’s labor force was documented as 40,229, with the number of unemployed workers in the county standing at 3,815.
All 14 of the state’s metro areas likewise witnessed a hike in their unemployment numbers from April, with the overall statewide rate estimated at 8.9 percent.
The number of counties with rates at 10 percent or above increased from 32 to 41 since last month.
When compared to the same month last year, not-seasonally-adjusted jobless rates increased in 23 counties, fell in 71 and remained the same in six.
“It is important to note that employment estimates are subject to large seasonal patterns; therefore, it is advisable to focus on over-the-year changes in the not-seasonally-adjusted estimates,” Commerce Department officials cautioned in the release.
These latest jobless figures come just days after more than 70,000 North Carolinians were cut off from receiving federal extended-unemployment benefits, following a decision by the North Carolina General Assembly earlier this year.
The Legislature, with the intention of paying down its debt on unemployment insurance sooner, is the only one in the country to essentially reject the federal money, which was supposed to continue through the end of the year for the long-term jobless.
A reduction in both the maximum amounts of benefits and length of time they can be received were also part of the wave of changes to the new system put in place by lawmakers.
In Lincoln County, 570 people have been impacted by the July 1 cutoff, according to data on the North Carolina Justice Center’s NCPolicyWatch.org.
“There will be ripple effects for businesses and the broader economy,” said Alexandra Forter Sirota, director of the Budget and Tax Center, also a project of the Justice Center, and author of a report on the changes. “The loss of the estimated $600 million in federal funds coming into North Carolina through the emergency program could translate into a loss of as much as $1.2 billion in economic activity.”

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