3-23-2021 – Caldwell jobs surge, boost region

Posted on: March 23rd, 2021 by admin

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March 23, 2021

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By Guy Lucas guylucas@newstopicnews.com

 

Mar 22, 2021

 

The number of Caldwell County residents with jobs took a big jump in January, helping the overall Hickory region become one of the state’s bright spots in employment for the month.

 

The number of county residents with jobs surged by more than 1,000, fueled by a similar number of longer-term unemployed people rejoining the workforce, dropping the local unemployment rate to 6.3%, the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division reported.

 

The state also revised the county’s December unemployment rate, dropping it from the original estimate of 6.6% to 6.5%.

 

The January report may be showing accelerated signs of local recovery from the pandemic, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission.

 

Caldwell County lost more than 7,500 jobs due to the pandemic, judging by the change in employment from the 2020 high of almost 36,000 in February to a low of just under 28,000 in April, Murray said.

 

“With 33,950 people working in January 2021, we are nearing return to pre-pandemic employment. We have regained 76% of the pandemic-lost jobs,” she said. “All told, it was a devastating year, one which is improving month by month. And it is our goal to regain all those jobs and continue to enlarge our economy.”

 

Only 18 of the 62 counties with an improved unemployment rate in January saw larger decreases than Caldwell.

 

Burke and Catawba counties both saw their unemployment rates drop by 0.1 percentage points, to 5.7% for Burke and 5.8% for Catawba.

 

The overall unemployment rate for the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton metropolitan Statistical area dropped from 6.0% in December to 5.8% in January, tied with Charlotte, Winston-Salem and New Bern for the fourth-lowest rate among the state’s 15 metro areas.

 

However, Murray warned that the furniture industry, one of the Hickory region’s largest employers, faces a threat from a shortage of foam for upholstered furniture because of supply-chain disruptions related to the pandemic.

 

“While I am very encouraged with the January jobs report I also reserve some caution for other temporary losses that may be on the horizon due to the foam shortage,” she said. “We hope it will be short-lived and recovery fully underway in the coming months.”

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