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For and about business in Surry County, N.C., including Dobson, Elkin, Lowgap, Pilot Mountain and Mount Airy

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Surry County’s job growth attracts less attention than losses

September 3rd, 2007 · No Comments

It’s well known that North Carolina has lost thousands of jobs in the past 10 years because textile and clothing companies¬† have moved manufacturing or purchasing overseas. Mount Airy alone has lost nearly 3,300 jobs in textile manufacturing, sock making and other apparel since 2000.

What’s less recognized is how retail, construction and service jobs have grown in Surry County, allowing many of the former industrial workers to stay here.

Surry County’s resident labor force reached a 10-year peak of almost 37,000 people in 2000, according to the N.C. Employment Security Commission. Nearly 35,500 workers had jobs when the decade started. Only 1,500 people (4.1 percent of the resident labor force) were receiving unemployment benefits in 2000.

In 2005, the local economy hit a low of 35,000 people in the local labor force. Only 33,000 were working and unemployment was at 5.8 percent.

In 2006, however, Surry County’s employment numbers went up. The Employment Security Commission says the resident labor force in 2006 rose to 35,140 and more than 33,300 of those people had jobs.

Surry County’s net loss from 2000 through 2006 was about 1,800 people in the labor force, despite what was by then a loss of more than 2,500 textile jobs. The net loss in all nonagricultural employment was 2,150 jobs; in other words, the local economy added 350 jobs despite the losses in the textiles industry and despite the nationwide recession five years ago.

Since 2000, hundreds of people removed themselves from Surry County’s labor force by relocating, retiring and quitting the effort to find work. Many dropped off the unemployment rolls when their benefits ran out. However, hundreds — perhaps several thousands — decided to stay here and either found or created new jobs for themselves.

A large, somewhat hidden pool of Surry County residents also remains ready and willing to reenter the local labor force if new jobs and opportunities arise, according to a recent N.C. Employment Security Commission report. In addition to the 1,900 collecting unemployment benefits while seeking work or undergoing retraining, more than 800 employed people in Surry County are actively seeking new jobs, the commission reported. Among those 2,700 potential workers (about 1,450 men and 1,280 women), 60 percent have a minimum of two years’ experience in the labor force.

Tags: Economic development · Workforce

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