6-4-2020 – Joblessness nears 2010 level

Posted on: June 4th, 2020 by admin


June 4, 2020



Jun 03, 2020 3:13 PM


The business effects of COVID-19 threw nearly 4,000 Caldwell County residents into unemployment in April, according to a new state report.


The number of Caldwell residents counted as unemployed swelled from about 1,500 in March to 5,370 in April, the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division reported, and the county’s unemployment rate rocketed up by 11.9 percentage points from March to 16.1 percent. That was the sixth-highest rate among the state’s 100 counties.


That’s also the third-highest Caldwell County has seen in recent history, after the 17 percent recorded in February 2010 and 16.3 percent in March 2010 after the Great Recession struck.


But the really bad news is that the unemployment picture probably got worse in May, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission. That’s because each month’s unemployment report reflects the jobs picture around the middle of the month.


“The April report shows dramatic increases in unemployment as expected. However, the report was a snapshot still early in the response to COVID, and May will likely be higher,” she said.


Labor participation and actual employment dropped to historic lows in April. Caldwell’s labor force – those with jobs combined with those seeking work – dropped from 36,056 in March to 33,291 in April, the lowest of any month since well before 2000, Murray said.


The number of people counted as working dropped even more: from 34,544 in March to 27,989 in April, a decline of 6,555, or just under 19 percent.


The low labor force number indicates a large number of those no longer working were not actively seeking work. Whether that means those workers were temporarily laid off and expected to be called back to work will not be clear until more unemployment data is reported, Murray said.


“May, June and July reports will determine the long-term severity of the pandemic’s affects,” she said. “Initially I was hopeful that the high unemployment would be brief because the layoffs would be temporary. After talking to a number of employers I am concerned that there have been more permanent job losses than anticipated.”


Residents of neighboring Alexander, Burke and Catawba counties actually were hit harder by layoffs than Caldwell workers were, according to Wednesday’s report.


Alexander County had the state’s second-highest percentage increase in unemployment as well as the second-highest overall unemployment rate, rising 16.6 points to 20.1 percent.


Catawba County had the third-highest increase and third-highest rate, rising 14.8 points to 18.8 percent. About 14,000 of Catawba’s labor force of 75,000 were unemployed in April.


Burke County’s rate increased by 11.4 points to 15.5 percent.


Not surprisingly, then, the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton metropolitan statistical area had the greatest percentage increase in unemployment among the state’s 15 metro areas, rising 13.6 points to 17.6 percent, the highest in the state.


Not far behind, though was the Asheville metro area, which went from the lowest unemployment rate in the state in March, 3.6 percent, to the second-highest in April, 16.0 percent.


Murray said the EDC is ramping up employment efforts through partnerships with the Employment Security Commission, NCWorks, Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, and businesses throughout the region.


“We want the unemployed to be aware of every new employment possibility,” she said. “We encourage those looking for permanent or temporary work to view the Caldwell Is Hiring Facebook postings each day, go to NCWorks.gov or contact the Career Center at CCC&TI.”


Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency on March 10 due to COVID-19 and in the following weeks issued several orders closing or curtailing businesses in hopes of slowing the spread of the coronavirus that causes it.


Statewide in April, the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Division of Employment Security received 494,728 initial claims for unemployment benefits, with 395,794 of these claims — or 80% — citing the coronavirus pandemic as the reason for the job loss, the Commerce Department reported last week. In March, 282,947 of 339,885 initial claims, 83%, cited COVID-19.


In Caldwell County a total of 2,532 filed initial unemployment claims related to COVID-19 in March, and another 4,282 filed in April, the Department of Commerce reported.


But special provisions by the state and federal governments extended unemployment benefits to many categories of workers who would not normally be eligible, including workers who were still employed but whose hours had been reduced.


Also, some employers laid off workers for a few weeks, then brought some or all back, and it could take a few months to get a clear picture of how many workers are suffering extended joblessness.

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