Signs are accumulating that the national economy, and particularly the real estate market, may be bottoming out. But things are still tough all over, and coastal markets are no exception. North Carolina coastal counties are experiencing uncharacteristically high unemployment rates, the Hampton Roads, Virginia, Virginian-Pilot reported in early January (" Unemployment rises sharply in coastal N.C.," by Jeff Hampton). Employment in the Carolina Outer Banks is always subject to seasonal rises and falls, with the slack time occurring in winter. "But in this economy, unemployment was worse this summer than it was in the winter a few years ago," reports the Virginian-Pilot. Winter rates are now hitting painful highs: In Dare County, unemployment this month is at 11%, up from 8.6% in October.