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Mecklenburg jobless rate dips below five percent, but data mixed / November 08, 2017
It’s been more than a decade since Mecklenburg County’s jobless rate dropped below 5 percent, but according to the latest figures issued by the Employment Commission last week, the local unemployment rate for September is 4.9 percent — down two-tenths of a percent from August when it stood at 5.1 percent.

The news is not all good for the county. The number of people available to work continues to slide as does the number of jobs. Between August and September 2017, Mecklenburg County lost 19 members of the work force and 3 employed workers. In a year over year comparison, the county has lost 200 members of the total work force and 104 employed workers, going from 12,532 in its civilian labor force and 11,828 employed workers in September 2016 down to 12,332 in the civilian labor force and 11,724 employed workers in September 2017.

Jobless claims are also down during that same period, which explains in part the drop in the unemployment rate. In September 2016 there were 704 unemployed workers, compared to 608 in September 2017.

Unemployed persons are defined by the Virginia Employment Commission as those who are actively seeking work who don’t find it. The official unemployment rate does not include persons who have retired or who have given up looking for work.

While the U.S. as a whole, lost 33,000 jobs in September, economists attribute that to the impact of hurricanes Irma and Harvey. Those storms were of no consequence to Mecklenburg County. It is far more likely that local residents are leaving the workforce due to age, having given up looking for work, or other factors such as illness.

Mecklenburg County continues to bump along the bottom of the rankings compared to unemployment rates in other areas. In August, it ranked 105 out of 133 counties and cities. In September it fell to 112 out of 133.

The county is also among the lowest in annual wages paid to workers. The average annual wage in Mecklenburg County is $32,812, compared to $35,360 in Halifax County, $34,060 in Brunswick County, $33,332 in Charlotte County, and $58,656 statewide.

Nine counties and 11 cities have higher jobless rates in the latest data: Buchanan, Dickenson, Smyth, Wise and Tazewell counties in far southwest Virginia, and Halifax, Surry and Brunswick Ccounties in southside, and Hampton, Emporia, Franklin, Portsmouth, Covington, Williamsburg, Lexington, Danville, Hopewell, Martinsville, and Petersburg cities.

The annual wage figures were derived from the first quarter of 2017.

Elsewhere in the region:

» Brunswick County’s jobless rate dropped from 5.5 percent in August to 5.3 percent in September, but it lost 17 workers between September and August.

» The jobless rate in Charlotte County went from 4.8 percent in August to 4.6 percent in September. Charlotte also added 48 workers to its rolls during the month.

» Lunenburg’s jobless rate fell to 4.0 percent in September from 4.2 percent in August. The county added 81 workers.

The seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate across Virginia fell by a tenth of a point in September, to 3.7 percent, even though nonfarm employment fell by 6,900 jobs during the month. Job losses were concentrated in the leisure and hospitality sector, with professional and business services also showing sharp declines.

The national unemployment rate fell to 4.1 percent in September.

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