9-1-2021 – Local economy humming along

Posted on: September 1st, 2021 by admin


September 1, 2021



By Guy Lucas guylucas@newstopicnews.com

Sep 1, 2021


Caldwell County’s economy continued improving in July with one of the largest drops in unemployment in the state as the number of residents with jobs closes in on pre-pandemic levels.


The local unemployment rate dropped by a half a percentage point to 4.6%, according to the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division. Although 99 of the state’s 100 counties saw their unemployment rate drop in July, only 11 others had a drop of a half percentage point or more.


That helped Caldwell move to the very middle, tied with Franklin and Mecklenburg counties for the 51st lowest unemployment rate.


But in terms of the percentage rate, Caldwell is much closer to the best than the worst: Avery County, Caldwell’s northwestern neighbor, had the state’s lowest unemployment rate at 3.5%, while Scotland County in the southeastern part of the state had the highest at 9.1%.


The number of Caldwell residents with jobs in July was about 2,100 higher than in July 2020, when the county was still early in its recovery from the COVID-19 shutdowns, and about 500 short of the number in July 2019, said Taylor Dellinger, a data analyst with the Western Piedmont Council of Governments. That’s about the same as the difference in the workforce from July 2019 to July 2021.


The question is whether most of those are staying out of work because of federally enhanced unemployment benefits, which will expire this month, or because of other reasons, he said.


Burke and Catawba counties both saw a drop of 0.4 percentage points in their unemployment rate, to 4.2% in Burke and 4.3% in Catawba.


The overall Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton metropolitan statistical area’s unemployment rate of 4.3% remained fifth lowest among the state’s 15 metro areas.


In other good news for the region’s economy, the Catawba Economic Development Commission announced Wednesday that Everything Attachments, a manufacturer of farm implements and tractor attachments, plans to spend at least $20 million to expand its manufacturing facility in Conover, creating nearly 150 new jobs over the next five years. Salaries for the new employees will vary by position and experience, but the company offers a minimum wage of $30 an hour, the announcement said.


Also, the Catawba Valley Association of Realtors reported Wednesday that demand for housing across the Hickory region, including Caldwell County, continues to exceed supply. The average selling price for a house in Caldwell in July was $226,434, up 10.6 percent from July 2020, though sales of higher-priced houses accounted for a big part of the jump. The median sales price, which is the point where half of all the houses sold are higher and half are lower, was $188,000, 3.4% higher than in July 2020.

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