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Health care providers suffering RN shortage, labor report shows

The mountain region's hospitals have openings for hundreds of registered nurses and the Henderson County public school system is also among the employers needing the most workers, new labor statistics show.

Although the unemployment rate for the region made up of Buncombe, Henderson, Madison and Transylvania counties unemployment ticked down to 5.5 percent in January, the region continued to lag behind where it was before the coronavirus pandemic halted substantial segments of the economy. There were 12,300 fewer jobs in the region and 12,689 fewer people working compared to January 2020. Compared to December 2020, there were 2,800 fewer jobs and 1,518 fewer people working, the Mountain Area Workforce Development Board reported Monday.

The workforce board reported that the health care industry dominated in the number of jobs to fill. HCA (Mission) Healthcare Inc. had the most job openings as of March 11, with 345, followed by AdventHealth in Fletcher (209), Pardee UNC Health (200) and Mission Health (131). Henderson County public schools was hiring 114 people, followed by Lowe's home improvement stores, which needed 80 employees.

The highest number of openings was for registered nurses, a whopping 604 people, followed by retail sales personnel, at 193, nursing assistants, 167, and general and operations managers, 134.

In January 2021, the unemployment rate in the four-county region declined to 5.5 percent. In Henderson County, the unemployment rate dropped by a tenth of a point, to 5.2 percent, from December, but remained above the rate in January 2020 of 3.1 percent. Transylvania County reported the lowest unemployment rate in the region at 5.1 percent. Buncombe County's unemployment rate declined to 5.6 percent. Madison County's unemployment rate declined to to 5.5 percent. All counties in the region were below the state average of 6.0 percent.

The mountain area region's streak of maintaining the lowest unemployment rate in North Carolina ended in April 2020. Early in the Covid-19 pandemic the region's unemployment rate was second highest in the state; now it has the third lowest unemployment rate. For 61 consecutive months Buncombe County had maintained the lowest unemployment rate of any  county in North Carolina and for 61 consecutive months the Mountain Area Workforce region as well as the Asheville metro had boasted the lowest unemployment rate of any NC region.