PRINCETON — Unemployment rates in West Virginia continue creeping upward with jobless statistics across the country, and while some employers are still looking for workers, more of the unemployed are trying to fill available slots.

In Mercer County, figures recently released by Work Force West Virginia show January’s unemployment rate at 5.4 percent, up from 3.7 percent in December 2008; however, in January 2009, the county’s unemployment stood at 4.6 percent. Approximately 1,330 of the county’s residents were unemployed in January compared to 930 in December 2008; there were 1,160 unemployed in January 2008.

McDowell County had an unemployment rate of 7.9 percent in January, up from 5.1 percent in December 2008. The rate was 6.8 percent in January 2008. The county’s total employment in January was 6,800 people, down from 6,820 in December 2008, but slightly more than 6,580 in January 2008.

Total unemployment in McDowell County was 590 people in January, up from 370 in December 2008 and from 480 in January 2008, according Work Force West Virginia statistics.

“Yes, unemployment is up all over the state, said Dennis Burgess, assistant director of One-Stop Career Centers in Charleston. “We’re saying from past years, definitely an increase in those applying for unemployment benefits. With the (federal) stimulus package there are more requests for training because more training money is being freed up by the federal government.”

Employers are still seeking workers, Burgess said.

“We’re still getting quite a few job orders. We’ve still got employers out there hiring, maybe more people vying for those jobs, but there are still jobs out there.”

Job decreases are in all business sectors, he said.

“There is still a lot of activity on labor exchange. A person has to get out there and hunt a little harder,” Burgess said.

In Mercer County, local manufacturing has not seen many layoffs, said Janet Bailey, executive director of the Development Authority of Mercer County.

“We still have a couple of employers looking for employees,” she said. Two new motels under construction should generate some jobs along with “ancillary” jobs related to the construction.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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