Friday, January 22, 2010

Mixed Signals

The middle part of the week brought major economic news that could benefit Edgecombe County--but the announcement didn't take place there.

On Tuesday, Oregon-based Reser's Fine Foods announced it would expand its operations in neighboring Halifax County, creating 500 jobs in the process. The company produces prepared salads, dips, side dishes, Mexican foods and specialty products under a variety of brand names.

Since the facility in Halifax is an hour or less from most Edgecombe County locales, the jobs are welcome news to the work force in Edgecombe. Many of the county's residents leave Edgecombe everyday for work in other communities--some of them further away than Halifax County.

In November, the most recent month for which data are available, Halifax County had an unemployment rate of 13.6%, 3 percent lower than Edgecombe's 16.6%, the highest in North Carolina. Edgecombe County has about 1000 more people looking for work than Halifax County does, according to NC Employment Security Commission statistics.

State and federal leaders also announced this week that Edgecombe County is among 37 North Carolina counties to receive $28 billion in economic stimulus funds to expand broadband internet access.

The promises of hundreds of new jobs and better internet access coming to the region were great news in the middle of the week, but state officials released data Friday that diluted some of that
good cheer. North Carolina's statewide unemployment rate in December increased to 11.2%, up from 10.8% in November. The 11.2% figure is the highest of the recession, topping June's mark of 11.1%. The jobless rate had been below 11% since then.

The state releases rates for individual counties on Friday, 1/29.

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