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Asheville jobless rate hits 5-year-low

By:  Dale Neal - Asheville Citizen-Times


The Asheville metro boasted the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 5.6 percent in October -- the region's best showing in five years.

The metro area posted 5.8 percent unemployment in September, a drop from 7.0 percent for the area a year ago, according to datareleased Thursday by the N.C. Commerce Department.

The four-county area of Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson and Madison counties has added 4,500 jobs in the past year, with the labor market growing at a 2.6 percent annualized clip.

"That's well above our normal historic rate of about 1.5 percent," said Tom Tveidt, an independent analyst with SYNEVA Economics.

The region's workforce reached 178,000 in October, just 400 jobs shy of the peak in October 2007, before the Great Recession.

The Asheville area leisure and hospitality sector, which includes restaurants and hotels, added the bulk of those new jobs, with an estimated 2,200 positions in the past 12 months, growing at a 9.2 percent annual rate.

The tourism industry has reached a record as part of the local economy with 26,000 positions. Retail still leads in the metro with 34,600 workers, closely followed by the 33,800 workers in health care. Manufacturing, which still pays the highest wages on average, remained flat at about 18,000 workers.

Polk County boasted Western North Carolina's lowest jobless rate at 5.2 percent in October. At 5.5 percent, Buncombe and Henderson county shared in some the state's lowest jobless figures. Chatham County had the state's lowest rate at 4.7 percent.

Graham and Swain counties saw unemployment rates actually go up from September to October. Graham's jobless rate was 11.5 percent, up from 11.4 percent, while Swain's unemployment went from 8.3 percent to 9.3 percent.

Statewide, North Carolina saw unemployment drop to 8 percent in October, the lowest rate of joblessness in five years.

The local jobs reports for September and October were delayed with this fall's federal government shutdown, which delayed research from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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