05/02/19 – Job numbers settling down again

Posted on: May 2nd, 2019 by admin

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May 2, 2019

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By: Guy Lucas

glucas@newstopicnews.com

 

The number of Caldwell County residents without jobs fell again in March as the local unemployment rate settled back closer to that of neighboring counties.

 

The county’s unemployment rate dropped by 0.2 percentage points to 4.3 percent in March, while neighboring Burke and Catawba had no change, remaining at 3.9 and 3.8 percent, respectively.

 

The local unemployment rate dropped in 81 of the state’s 100 counties in March, but only 19 had a larger drop than Caldwell.

 

After years of seeing employment growth that surpassed most of the rest of the state, Caldwell was hit last fall by two plant closures stemming from Heritage Home Group’s bankruptcy, and the unemployment rate climbed at the end of the year, going from 2.8 percent in September to 4.8 in January. The two plants employed more than 700 people at the time the closures were announced.

 

Since then, however, the rate has dropped for two months as laid off workers have been absorbed into the growing economy, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission.

 

“The March report verifies the continued recovery from the November HHG shutdown,” she said. “February and March both showed reductions.”

 

Murray also pointed to the continued strength of the labor force, which she said signals the real strength and stability of the local economy. The labor force, which is the combined number of those with jobs and those actively seeking jobs, had not averaged above 37,000 since 2011 until it hit that number last November.

 

“In 2018 we had only one month where the labor force topped 37,000, and that was November. Had the HHG scenario not played out our numbers would have continued to grow from November. Be that as it may, the labor force has exceeded 37,000 four of the five months since November last year,” she said. “Looking ahead, we are seeing healthy projections from employers for continued increases in employment. Hopefully those new jobs will be filled by people who will find both work and home in Caldwell County.”

 

The Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton metropolitan area’s overall unemployment rate of 3.9 percent in March was tied for sixth lowest among the state’s 15 metropolitan regions.

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