ROCKINGHAM— The unemployment rate in Richmond County declined slightly from 9.0 percent in February to 8.7 percent in March, according to the North Carolina Department of Commerce.
During March, 1,623 people in Richmond County were without jobs, compared to 1,664 people in February. The county’s labor force has 18,683 workers.
The county also experienced an over-the-year decrease in unemployment, down from 11.2 percent in March 2013.
Richmond County had the 18th highest unemployment rate in the state for March. Chatham County had the lowest rate at 4.6 percent, and Graham County had the highest at 12.7 percent.
The rates for other counties that touch Richmond County were: Scotland County at 12.2 percent, down from 12.4 percent in February; Hoke County at 6.6 percent, down from 6.8 percent; Anson County at 7.3 percent, down from 7.6 percent; and Montgomery County at 7.1 percent, down from 7.4 percent.
The state unemployment rate was 6.3 percent in March, down from 6.4 percent in February.
Michael Walden, an N.C. State University economist whose column appears in the Richmond County Haily Journal, said that while job growth statewwide is needed, the data continue to show a worrying trend. He said the number of middle-class jobs continues to decline as a percentage of all jobs in North Carolina.
“What you’re seeing here as well as statewide is really job growth at both the top and the bottom and not much in the middle, in fact a little bit stronger growth in the bottom,” Walden said. “I think that’s going to be a focus of increasing attention as time goes on. As the job market improves, we’re going to be paying more attention to the rate of pay, and that hasn’t recovered nearly as much as the job market.”