David Kennard – Editor-in-Chief
LUMBERTON – Third-quarter industrial sector reports won’t be available until February, but data provided in November provides insight into the types of jobs that make up Robeson County’s diverse economy, and where jobs could head to. the new Year.
According to the North Carolina Department of Commerce, five industry sectors make up the bulk of jobs locally employing a slowly but steadily growing labor pool.
Health care, 18.6%; Manufacturing, 18.5%; Retail, 13.3%; Education, 12.1%; and Hospitality-Restaurants, 8.9% of the sectors complete a large majority of the jobs employing the employees of the department.
The public administration industry sector just missed out on the top five with 7.2% of jobs.
Additionally, the top two sectors, health care and manufacturing, show a difference of just 55 jobs, according to state data.
The county, historically ranked among the poorest in the state, has seen some revitalization in recent months as new and existing employers have helped expand the employment base.
In the first eight months of 2021, the county’s labor force average was 49,851, down from 49,556 in the same period of 2020, according to data obtained by The Robosonian from the state Department of Commerce.
The Robeson County Office of Economic Development, which works to promote economic growth in new and existing industries in the county, closely monitors available jobs – and the workers to fill them.
The Economic Development Office provides insight into the diversity of local manufacturing jobs. On its website, the bureau lists a handful of companies and the jobs they provide, from a maker of cleaning products with 400 employees to a producer of aluminum fencing with 25 employees. A simple internet search found more manufacturers of different sizes.
Beyond an available workforce, Robeson County touts location and other factors that might be attractive to manufacturers and other employers.
“Most East Coast destinations are within a trucking day of Robeson County. And 70% of US and Canadian markets (and 170 million consumers) can be reached overnight. Southeastern North Carolina is also a hub for rail service, and a major deep-water port lies 60 miles to the east. With a full range of transportation resources, plus plentiful water and waste capabilities and affordable utilities, Robeson County is ready for your business to move in.
The local unemployment rate is tied to the industry sector report, which has also shown a steady decline throughout the past year. Peaking at 13.2% in May 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak, the unemployment rate fell to just 6% in October.
Given the trend of the past few months, Robeson County’s November unemployment rate is expected to continue to improve when results are released Dec. 30.
As expected, the national and statewide unemployment rate followed the same downward trend.
The State Department of Commerce released November data on Friday, showing a decline from 4.1% in October to 3.9% in November. Nationally, during the same period, the unemployment rate fell from 4.6% to 4.2%.
In a normal, non-COVID environment, most economists consider anything below 4% full employment. However, unemployment rates measure the percentage of the labor force looking for work. Thus, when workers leave the labor pool, the unemployment rate shows a decline, given that all other variables remain stable.
National news reports have suggested high levels of workers across the country have left the labor force, skewing the unemployment rate.
According to the Department of Commerce, the industries in North Carolina that posted the largest job gains over the past month were the professional and business services sector, the leisure and hospitality services sector, the manufacturing sector and the education and health services sector.