Little change as Vance jobless rate moves up to No. 3

Vance County’s jobless rate improved slightly in May but moved one step closer to the worst in the state, according to preliminary numbers released Wednesday by the state Employment Security Commission.

The Vance unemployment rate fell to 8.6 percent from a revised 8.7 percent in April. The preliminary jobless rate for April was 8.5 percent, reflecting the lack of statistical significance in the minor month-to-month move in the rate. The numbers are not seasonally adjusted.

Based on the ESC figures, Vance has seen a decline in the jobless rate for three consecutive months, although the only significant change was the fall from 10.2 percent in February to 8.9 percent in March.

One example of how little difference there was between April and May: The official number of unemployed people was reduced by four, from 1,641 to 1,637, in a labor force of about 19,000.

The good news for the county is that the unemployment rate appears to have settled into a range that is the lowest since 2000, before the local textile industry collapsed and before J.P. Taylor closed its tobacco-processing factory. That was the last year in which Vance’s jobless rate stayed below 9 percent.

Vance’s unemployment rate has been lower every month this year than in the comparable month last year. The rate was 10.4 percent in May 2004 and 9.9 percent in April 2004.

The downside to the ESC report is that Vance is drifting back toward the top of the unemployment ranks among the state’s 100 counties. Vance was first or second in unemployment for about two years until late 2004, when the state recalculated its labor statistics just as the economy picked up a bit.

According to the latest numbers, Vance was fourth in unemployment in April and third in May, behind Scotland County at 9.4 percent and Wilson County at 9 percent.

Across North Carolina, the jobless rate fell in 63 counties and rose in 21 in May, the ESC reported. The statewide rate was 5 percent when not seasonally adjusted, down from 5.1 percent in April.

Currituck County had the lowest unemployment rate at 2.8 percent.

Among Vance’s neighbors, Granville County was at 5.8 percent in May, down from 6 percent in April; Warren County fell to 6.7 percent from 6.8 percent; and Franklin County declined from 4.9 percent to 4.6 percent.

“The May county rates are reflective of the current economic situation in the state,” ESC Chairman Harry Payne Jr. said in a statement. “North Carolina is attracting new employers, and some current employers are filling new positions.”