04/04/19 – Job numbers resume positive trends

Posted on: April 5th, 2019 by admin

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April 3, 2019

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By: Guy Lucas

glucas@newstopicnews.com

 

After increasing for two months, Caldwell County’s unemployment rate dropped in February as the number of those who were unemployed declined and the size of the labor force climbed.

 

The local unemployment rate fell by 0.3 percentage points to 4.5 percent, the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division reported. The unemployment rate dropped in 99 of the state’s 100 counties, but only 44 had larger drops than Caldwell.

 

Perhaps as important, the size of the labor force – the number of those with jobs plus those actively seeking jobs – has climbed for three of the past four months, with each increase hitting a level that hasn’t been seen since 2012. In February the labor force was approaching 37,300, according to the report.

 

A growing labor force is seen as a sign of workers’ confidence in the local economy.

 

The combination of positive numbers buoyed the mood of Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission.

 

“Things are once again heading in the right direction. Our labor force numbers are up. Confidence in the local economy is very strong. The number employed is going up again. And the number unemployed is once again shrinking,” she said.

 

After hitting an 18-year low of 2.9 percent last September, Caldwell’s unemployment rate had climbed each month until hitting 4.8 percent in January.

 

The largest factor in that increase was thought to be the bankruptcy of Heritage Home Group, which announced in August that it would close its two remaining furniture plants in Lenoir, eliminating more than 700 jobs. The plants closed Nov. 2.

 

Following the closures, the county’s labor force dropped below 37,000 in December, but it resumed growing again the following month.

 

This unemployment report came just two weeks before Caldwell Is Hiring, where about 50 employers will gather at the J.E. Civic Center on April 17 seeking to fill well more than 2,000 jobs. Murray has said that in recent years that there has been a shift in those who attend, and in addition to those looking for a job now there are many who are looking for a better job than the one they have.

 

“The variety of jobs and the sheer number of them is remarkable. It is a great time to explore new employment opportunities,” she said.

 

Both Burke and Catawba counties both saw their unemployment rates drop by 0.2 percentage points in February. Burke’s fell to 3.9 percent, and Catawba’s fell to 3.8 percent.

 

The overall Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton metropolitan statistical area’s unemployment rate dropped 0.2 points to 4.0 percent, tied for sixth-lowest among the state’s 15 metro areas.

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