Johnston County’s jobless rate rose for the second-straight month in June.
From May to June, the unemployment rate climbed 0.3 percentage points to 5.5 percent, according to the the N.C. Department of Commerce.
But viewed from a year-to-year basis, employment in Johnston County is up. Compared to the same month last year – which eliminates the variability of seasonal hiring – unemployment is down 0.2 percentage points from a rate of 5.7 percent in June 2014.
Digging deeper into the numbers that make up the unemployment rate, 12 people joined Johnston’s labor force from May to June. That increased the total number of people working or looking for work to 87,762 people. Meanwhile, the number of unemployed jumped by 326 to 4,825. Taken together, tnumber of unemployed jumped by 326 to 4,825. Taken together, that means about 300 people lost their jobs from May to June.
Johnston followed the broader trend in North Carolina, where jobless rates rose in 95 counties, fell in four and remained unchanged in Avery County. The rates ranged from a high of 12.3 percent in Graham County on the boarder of Tennessee to a low of 4.7 percent in Buncombe County, where Asheville is the county seat.
In a ranking of all 100 counties by lowest unemployment rate, Johnston moved up one position to 12th place.
In the two months since April, Johnston’s jobless rate has soared almost an entire percentage point from 4.6 percent.
Many economists consider a jobless rate around 5 percent to be full employment, said Chris Johnson, director of economic development for the county. But that doesn’t mean he will stop working to drive that number down, Johnson said.
In fact, Johnson said, he has gotten more industry leads from the state in the last few months than any at other time he can remember.
“That doesn’t help someone looking for employment right now, but hopefully things will change as we enter into fall and going into the new year,” he said.
“In the world of economic development, you don’t count your chickens until they hatch,Johnson said. “But I tell people, ‘We have a lot of eggs here in Johnston County.’”
As odd as it might sound, Johnson said, some companies look a low jobless rates as a disadvantage for a county.
Johnston’s jobless rate is quite a bit lower than the counties it competes with in the region, Johnson said. Those counties include Sampson, Wayne, Harnett and Nash. When employers see higher jobless rates in those counties, Johnson said, they see less competition for workers.
“It just depends on which side of the unemployment table you’re sitting on,” he said.