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Jobless rate down in Asheville

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12/2/2011 - Jobless rate down in Asheville
by Dale Neal - Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- Unemployment in the metropolitan area dropped to 7.7 percent in October, down from 8.1 percent in September.

But job growth continued at an agonizingly slow pace for the year, with the four counties of the metro region -- Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson and Madison counties -- still down 200 jobs from a year ago, the state Division of Employment Security reported Thursday.

"Looking at the numbers for the Asheville metro, I have to be a little disappointed," said Michael Brown, economist for Wells Fargo Securities. While other metro areas saw positive job growth for the month, the Asheville metro was down 100 jobs in October.

Some 15,914 workers were unemployed in the four-county region in October, compared with 16,643 in September, according to data that has not been adjusted for the seasonal hiring that public schools or tourism businesses typically experience.

On a positive note, Brown pointed to 500 jobs added in the government sector for the metro and 200 new positions in professional and business services. Manufacturing was down 100 jobs for the month.

Buncombe County joblessness fell to 7.5 percent last month, still slightly above the 7.4 percent unemployment rate in October 2010.

Rick Elingburg, director of the local Employment Security Office, saw positive trends going into next year. "It's still on the slow side, but we're seeing some good things in the job market. We're moving in the right direction."

Elingburg expected to see better numbers in the first quarter of 2012, as new factories such as Linamar and other companies with planned expansions add workers.

Across Western North Carolina, Graham and Rutherford counties still posted some of the state's highest jobless rates at 14.1 and 13.4 percent, respectively.

North Carolina's unemployment rate was 10.4 percent for the month, with 466,568 Tar Heel residents out of work, compared with the national average of 9 percent. Some 14 million Americans are without jobs.

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