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Charlotte Area

Charlotte region's unemployment reaches 11.7%

Last week, the North Caroling Employment Security Commission reported the state's unemployment number. Today it released local figures. Those show the Charlotte region's unemployment rate jumped to 11.7 percent in February. That's 1.2 percent higher than in January. In February, the Hickory region had the highest unemployment rate among metro areas in North Carolina at 15.7 percent. For the Charlotte region, several economists had forecast unemployment would reach 12 or 13 percent by the end of this year. Wachovia Economist Mark Vitner says the region got there much faster than expected. "Right now I think we're in the period where the economy has really just fallen off a cliff and we're in free fall in the first quarter of this year. But that's going to let up a bit as we move into the spring," says Vitner. The Charlotte region lost 2.900 financial service jobs last month, according to the state's Employment Security Commission. Vitner says the statistics are catching up with workers who were laid off with severance packages a few months ago, but are now off company payrolls. Still, the biggest losses last month were in manufacturing. Vitner expects unemployment will go above 13 percent this year and peak next year. The Charlotte region had the third highest unemployment rate last month among metro areas of more than a million people. Detroit and Riverside California head the list.