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Mecklenburg County jobs report hints at improvement / May 08, 2013
Unemployment numbers are again on the decline in Mecklenburg County, which added 100 new workers to its rolls in March, according to data released last week by the Virginia Employment Commission.

The county and saw its unemployment rate tick down from 10.2 percent in February to 9.1 percent in March.

Mecklenburg’s recent employment gains may be wiped out, however, now that Stage Stores/Peebles has begun its next round of layoffs. The company said it would lay off 112 workers from its South Hill corporate headquarters as of May 3.

The loss of these jobs is not unexpected. Peebles/Stage Stores announced in January its plans to consolidate its corporate operations in Texas, and began its first round of layoffs at the end of February.

Still,. Mecklenburg’s overall improved employment picture is consistent with the statewide gains reported by the Virginia Employment Commission. According to Senior Economist Ann Lang, “Seasonally adjusted nonfarm employment continues its gradual upward trend, with continued positive over-the-year change.”

Aside from Richmond based Home Care Delivered, which hired around 15 new positions for its call center in Clarksville, the job growth is not attributed to any one company or industry sector, according to Mecklenburg’s Economic Development Director Angie Kellett.

Nearby Halifax County saw an additional 230 workers join the ranks of the employed and Brunswick County added 21 new jobs to its roles. At the same time, Halifax saw its unemployment drop from 9.3 percent in February to 8.7 percent in March and Brunswick’s rate sank by .8 percent for 10.4 percent in February to 9.6 percent in March.

All three counties outperformed the State and the nation as far as job growth. That’s good news for an area that has struggled with high unemployment for over five years.

Data collected by the Virginia Employment Commission for March also did not reflect significant job growth in any single industry sector. However, a review of jobs posted on the Commission’s website during February and March showed a large number of open positions among food vendors, and in the retail sector.

The report was not altogether good news for Brunswick and Mecklenburg County, as both saw their civilian workforce continue to shrink. Only Halifax County added workers to its civilian workforce, which increased by 142 workers. The civilian workforce is the number of people in the County available for work, both employed and those actively looking for work, at any given time.

One industry that is not covered by this report is farm-related employment. This year, due to a cold, wet spring, planting is “behind about ten days to two weeks,” said David Brankley with Crop Production Services. By the end of this month, assuming “we can get at least a week of good weather” he believes hiring, as well as planting, will be back on track.

Across the state, the jobless rate fell to 5.2 percent in March, down from 5.7 percent in February. Nationwide, the unemployment rate ticked downward to 7.6 percent in March, its lowest rate since December 2008.

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