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How Low Is Asheville Metro’s Unemployment Rate?

The unemployment rate is a common indicator of economic health. In simple terms, the unemployment rate is the percent of people in the labor force who are seeking a job but are currently not employed. To be considered unemployed you need to be age 16 or over, have been actively seeking work sometime within the previous four weeks, are currently available to work, but are not now working. Nationally, there are several more detailed measures of unemployment, such as the duration of unemployment and the reasons for unemployment; but at the local level, only the rate and number of unemployed are published regularly.  It is also important to know that the unemployment rate is an estimate based on a broad compilation of national and local sources.

The average 2018 unemployment rate through June for the four-county Asheville metro (Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, and Madison) was 3.4 percent; representing about 8,000 unemployed people. By comparison, the average national 2018 rate was 4.1 percent and statewide was 4.2 percent. Asheville metro’s unemployment rate has been gradually declining since hitting a peak of 10.3 percent in January 2010 (see chart below). Asheville metro’s unemployment rate reached a low of 2.9 percent in May 2018; the lowest rate since December 1999 at 2.2 percent.

Asheville metro’s monthly unemployment rate is usually below both the corresponding national and statewide rates. Over the last 342 months, beginning in January 1990, the national unemployment rate has been lower than Asheville metro’s rate for just three months and the statewide rate lower for just 10 months.

Monthly Unemployment Rates
1990-2018 June

Monthly Unemployment Rates ~1990-2018 June, Source: NC Dept of Commerce & US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Reported by Johnson Price Sprinkle PA

Source: N.C. Department of Commerce, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


How does Asheville metro’s unemployment rate compare to the other 14 metropolitan areas in the state? Over the last 222 months, beginning in January 2000, Asheville metro has had the lowest unemployment rate among all fifteen NC metros for 177 months or 53 percent of the time. During the months it did not have the lowest rate, Asheville metro was usually the second or third lowest. Since March 2015, Asheville metro has held the lowest unemployment rate among all metros in the state; 40 consecutive months (see chart below).

Monthly Unemployment Rates
North Carolina Metros
2000-2018 June

Monthly Unemployment Rates~NC Metros: 2000-2018 June. Source: NC Dept of Commerce & US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Reported by Johnson Price Sprinkle PA

Source: N.C. Department of Commerce, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


Finally, does the time of year impact Asheville metro’s unemployment rate? Examining average unemployment rates by month since 1990 clearly shows that some months have higher rates than others for the metro (see chart below). January has the highest average unemployment rate at 5.6 percent; likely the effects of cooler temperatures, less tourism activity and no major consumer holidays. By contrast, September and October have the lowest average unemployment rates, each averaging 4.3 percent; reflecting not only warm temperatures but also peak tourism activity.

 Average Monthly Unemployment Rates
Asheville Metro

Average Monthly Unemployment Rates~Asheville Metro ~1990-2017. Source: NC Dept of Commerce & US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Reported by Johnson Price Sprinkle PA

Source: N.C. Department of Commerce, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


So how low is Asheville metro’s unemployment rate? Compared to the nation and state, Asheville metro has enjoyed the lowest monthly rates for most of the last 28 years. Compared to its North Carolina metro peers, Asheville metro has had the lowest rates in slightly more than half of all months since the year 2000. And currently Asheville metro holds an unbroken 40-month stretch with the lowest rates among all fifteen NC metros.

Lastly, when examining Asheville metro’s unemployment rates, it’s important to understand that the time of year makes a difference; September and October having the lowest average rates in the year, more than a percentage point lower than in January.

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Johnson Price Sprinkle PA is a 60+ year old accounting firm providing small to middle market businesses with tax, business consulting, audit, fraud, and technology solution services. With offices in Asheville, Boone, and Marion, NC, our CPAs and JPS team strive to provide personal service alongside technical expertise resulting in our clients’ long- term financial success. We also invest time and energy in our community, taking pride in doing what we can to make Western North Carolina a better place. JPS Mission: To Be Greater by positively impacting our Clients, People, Community and Profession.