Surry Business

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

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Number of jobless workers highest since 2005

January 25th, 2008 · No Comments

Joblessness in Surry County last month hit the highest level since the spring of 2005, the N.C. Employment Security Commission reported today.

More than 2,100 people — 6.1 percent of the county’s labor force — were unemployed and seeking work in December. The unemployment rate was 0.2 percent higher than in November. Twelve months previously, in December 2006, 1,732 were unemployed and the jobless rate was 4.9 percent.

The number of Surry County people with jobs also fell sharply from 2006 to 2007. About 33,550 people had work in December 2006 compared to 32,823 in December 2007. Though 730 fewer people have work, that number is well below the job losses when at least four textile and apparel companies ceased manufacturing operations in Mount Airy last year.

Increases in service-related jobs (especially health care), retailing and government employment in Surry County have absorbed some of the displaced workers, as we’ve previously reported in

However, the loss of employment opportunities may be shrinking the local labor pool, which previously held up fairly well despite severe job losses (primarily in textiles and apparel) dating to 2001-02.

In 2007, according to a preliminary calculation based on NCESC’s monthly labor reports, the size of Surry County’s available labor force slipped below 35,000. That reverses the upwards movement since 2005. If the calculations hold up, the 2007 local labor force of less than 34,900 would be the smallest in Surry County in 15 years.

One year’s change in the labor force’s size does not establish a trend. Various factors can account for changes from one year to the next. Although some workers move away in search of other opportunities, people also drop out of the labor force but remain in the county while they return to school for retraining or additional education, when they cease seeking work until new job opportunities emerge and when they shift into non-payroll employment as housekeeping, unlicensed child care and general labor.

Retirement also will have a large impact on labor force numbers now and in the next 20 years. The first Baby Boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964) turn 62 this year and become eligible for Social Security.

Tags: Workforce

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