10-01-2020 – Job gains stalled in August

Posted on: October 1st, 2020 by admin


October 1, 2020


By Guy Lucas

Sep 30, 2020 11:10 AM


The start of the new school year in August helped drive local unemployment rates down across the state, but locally employment in other sectors of the economy held even overall, according to a new state report.


Caldwell County’s unemployment rate dropped 2.3 percentage points to 7.3% in August, the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division reported.


Neighboring counties showed similar drops – 1.9 points to 6.3% in Burke and 2.2 points to 7.0% in Catawba – but across the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton metropolitan statistical area that was almost entirely driven by government job gains, the report said. Government employment across the region climbed by almost 2,000 from mid-July to mid-August as schools prepared for the beginning of the new school year on Aug. 17.


Overall employment remained about 16,000 jobs lower across the region than it was in August 2019, and even government employment was about 800 jobs lower, the report said.


Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission, said it is difficult to interpret employment reports with any degree of certainty because of the pandemic-related shutdowns, some of which are now in their fifth month. But she said that Caldwell’s unemployment rate improved relative to other counties, moving up from 83rd to 78th out of 100 counties.


Also, reversing a trend from recent months, the local labor force – the combined number of those who have jobs and those actively searching for jobs – dropped sharply from July to August, declining by more than 1,200 to just under 34,000 in Caldwell, by a similar number to just under 39,000 in Burke, and by about 2,500 to just over 73,000 in Catawba.


A declining labor force often is seen as a sign of discouragement among the unemployed because some have stopped looking for work and no longer are counted in the labor force.


Murray said it was unclear how to interpret that decline this time.


“This report is typical for August in that the number unemployed always decreases from July to August. (But) While the number unemployed month over month reduced substantially, so did the labor force,” she said. “The significance of those numbers will be seen more clearly as we receive the September and October reports.”

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