12/21/2016 – State report shows improvement in Caldwell County economy

Posted on: December 21st, 2016 by admin


December 21, 2016


Caldwell County will remain designated as one of the state’s 40 most economically distressed counties for another year, but the economic statistics the state uses to evaluate counties for that status indicate that Caldwell’s economy may be in its best shape in years.


In the areas measured by the state for determining each county’s economic health, Caldwell had the greatest improvement in median household income, which rose about 11 percent from $34,811 in 2013, the 19th lowest in the state to $38,653 in 2014, the 40th lowest in the state, according to figures from the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division.


The growth stood out the most to Caldwell County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Deborah Murray because only 42 of the state’s 100 counties had any improvement in household income. In 49 counties, that number declined.


“Once I started looking into it, I was really pleased with the county’s progress during the past year,” Murray said. “It’s nice to see the needle move on some of these items.”


The average unemployment rate in Caldwell County also dropped from 6.32 percent in the period of October 2014 to September 2015, 39th highest in the state, to 5.51 percent in September 2016, 49th highest in the state.


The property tax base per capita – which is the total taxable value of the property divided by the population – rose from $73,463 in fiscal 2015-16 to $77,580 in fiscal 2016-17. That’s a slight improvement, going from the 34th lowest to the 37th lowest.


The one dark spot in the statistics for Caldwell was the five-year poverty rate, which increased from 19.5 percent in 2009-13 to 20.5 percent in 2010-2014. Many counties saw an increase in the five-year poverty rate.


Each December the N.C. Department of Commerce divides the state’s 100 counties into three tiers. The 40 designated as Tier 1 are considered the most in need of economic help, and the designation can help them get certain grants and other aid. Another 40 are Tier 2, and the 20 counties that are the best are Tier 3.


Counties economic factors alone, Caldwell ranked as the 36th most distressed of North Carolina’s counties in the 2017 County Development Tier Rankings released this month by the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division.


That’s a large jump in one year, from 20th in the 2016 listing.


That also ties Caldwell with neighboring Burke County, which is designated as a Tier 2 county.


The economic factors alone do not determine tier status, though. The state makes adjustments based on population size and poverty level. A county with fewer than 12,000 people is automatically Tier 1 regardless of its economy, and a county with fewer than 50,000 people is Tier 1 if it has a povery rate of at least 19 percent.


The state first designated Caldwell as Tier 1 in 2005 following waves of layoffs in the furniture industry, and Caldwell remained Tier 1 until 2014, when Caldwell County barely inched out of the Tier 1 status despite ranking as the 22nd most economically distressed. Last year, it ranked 20th, just barely bad enough to regain Tier 1 status.


The county now has far better numbers than it did two years ago, but the state requires that a county remain at Tier 1 for two years before it can change tiers.


By Guy Lucas, (Lenoir) News-Topic







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