1-5-2020 – Job market still shows strength

Posted on: January 6th, 2020 by admin


January 5, 2020



By Guy Lucas


Jan 03, 2020 1:33 PM


Caldwell County’s continues whittling away at the increase in the unemployment rate that followed a major employer’s bankruptcy in 2018.


The local unemployment rate dropped 0.3 percentage points in November to 3.5 percent, the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division reported. That’s the lowest since Heritage Home Group’s last two furniture manufacturing plants in Lenoir closed in November 2018.


The local unemployment rate had dropped to 2.9 percent in September 2018, and then after the plants’ closing rose to 4.8 percent by January 2019.


Even when the unemployment rate went up, though, the monthly jobs report has been showing continuing signs of the local economy’s overall strength: the size of the labor force, which rose above 37,000 in January 2019 and has remained there ever since, and the total number of Caldwell County residents with jobs. Both are at pre-recession levels.


The November employment report continues to show that strength and stability in the local economy, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission.


“Fewer people are unemployed month over month (112 fewer), and the unemployment rate is at its lowest for all of 2019. January 2019 began with 1,781 people unemployed. That number has been dramatically reduced to 1,299 in the November report,” she said. “The competitor in me is disappointed that we haven’t yet exceeded 36,000 employed this year but I am certain we will get there in early 2020.”


The number of those with jobs has hovered just under 36,000 for much of 2019.


“While these are just numbers on paper about how many are working, there is a really strong story to be told,” Murray said. “Today Caldwell has the largest number of people working in over a decade, and when you layer on top of that that Caldwell has the 26th highest average private sector wages of the 100 N.C. counties, individual workers in Caldwell County are incredibly better off than they were a decade ago. Measuring Caldwell wages over the last five years, Caldwell is outpacing even the counties around us. Full employment is a great thing, but full employment with significantly and consistently improving wages is impactful for every worker and every family in Caldwell.”



Caldwell’s drop of 0.3 points from October’s unemployment rate was among the best in the state – only 15 of the state’s 100 counties saw unemployment drop more – and puts the county’s unemployment rate right at the statewide median, tied with seven other counties for 45th lowest in the state. Neighboring Burke and Catawba counties both had a drop of 0.2 points, to 3.3 percent in Burke and 3.2 percent in Catawba.


The unemployment rate in the overall Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton metropolitan statistical area was 3.6 percent in November, tied with Burlington and Winston-Salem for the sixth lowest among the state’s 15 metro areas.

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