Bertie County boasts lowest unemployment rate in the state

Unemployment numbers for North Carolina show Bertie County and Chowan County tied with the lowest unemployment rate of 8.1%
Published: Jul. 2, 2020 at 8:29 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - While unemployment has skyrocketed across the nation and here in North Carolina, there is one place where business hasn’t changed all that much.

The newest unemployment numbers for North Carolina for the month of May show Bertie County and Chowan County tied with the lowest unemployment rate: 8.1%.

Bertie County focuses heavily on agro-business, an essential food-producing business, a fact that explains why employment is relatively steady.

“Farming doesn’t stop. It runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” explained Jon Powell, the vice president for Bertie County Peanuts.

“The demand for food, while it has changed, it hasn’t gone away,” added Dr. Brenda Wells, a business professor at ECU.

Wells said another reason for the county’s low rates may be because they had a drop in population from 2010 to 2018 of about 2,000 people. She said because they’re gone, they are not part of the unemployment rate.

“I think the agricultural focus and a slight decline in the population is probably...explaining most of their excellent unemployment results of this time in history,” said Wells.

Steve Biggs, the county’s executive director for economic development, said another contributing factor could be because about 80 of their businesses have applied for payroll protection loans to cover their employees’ salaries.

However, one concern is if there’s a trade-off. While farmers are normally able to distance themselves, for employees at other businesses, like meat processing facility Perdue Farms, it might be more difficult.

“They got over 2,000 employees. It’s tough to do your social distancing,” said Biggs. He added, they have done a great job at trying their best during this pandemic.

As a whole, this is a proud and resilient moment for the county. “They’ve been through such turmoil over the years as far as hurricanes and tornadoes and everything else, and they just bounce back,” said Biggs.

The state update said not-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates, compared to the same month last year, increased for all 100 counties.

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