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Mecklenburg unemployment rate rises to 5.3 percent / January 10, 2018
The latest jobs numbers for Mecklenburg County show a labor market moving backward — with unemployment creeping up, available workers on the decline, and a downward trend in the number of people on the job.

The county’s unemployment rate in November 2017 rose to 5.3 percent, from 4.9 percent in October. During the same period, the number of available workers shrunk by 18, the number of employed workers was down by 62, and 46 new claimants filed for jobless benefits.

The local data, reported last week by the Virginia Employment Commission, present a stark contrast to a more glowing picture at the national level, where job creation continued unabated and the unemployment rate held steady at an almost 17-year low.

Over the past year, Mecklenburg County has shed more than 400 people from the available labor pool and lost nearly 500 jobs. Yet the county’s unemployment rate is up only one-tenth of a percent between November 2016 and November 2017 — going from 5.2 percent to 5.3 percent.

One reason the rate is not higher is the drop in the number of people filing employment claims, which peaked in June 2017 when over 650 people were seeking benefits. By November 2017 the number of claimants was down to 636. These unemployed workers are still counted as part of the active labor pool, in contrast to others without jobs who have dropped out of the labor market altogether.

Employment numbers are not likely to improve in the short term. Already in 2018, the local job market is suffering a blow with the closing of the Stage Stores warehouse in South Hill, costing some 100 jobs. Stage Stores has said it will shut down the warehouse at the end of January 2018.

Mecklenburg County was not the only Southside locality to get a gloomy jobs report in November. Halifax County’s jobless rate inched up 5.2 percent from 5.1 percent in October. Brunswick County also saw a pronounced rise in unemployment, with a rate of 5.6 percent in November compared to 5.3 percent in October. Charlotte County’s unemployment rate climbed from 4.4 percent in October to 4.6 percent in November, and Lunenburg County’s rate went from 4.0 percent to 4.1. percent.

Across Virginia, the unemployment rate was 3.6 percent in November, up from 3.5 percent in October. Nationally, the seasonally unadjusted unemployment was unchanged, at 3.9 percent.

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