11/07/18 – Unemployment hits 18-year low

Posted on: November 7th, 2018 by admin

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November 7, 2018

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By Guy Lucas

guylucas@newstopicnews.com

 

Caldwell County’s unemployment rate crashed through another significant milestone in September, dropping lower than it has been in more than 18 years.

 

The unemployment rate dropped a full percentage point from August to 2.9 percent, the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division reported.

 

The last time the rate was lower than 3 percent was June 2000, when it was 2.7 percent.

 

The numbers confirm what local employers have been saying about the difficulty of finding workers, said Deborah Murray, executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission.

 

“It is so amazing to me to even say the words — Caldwell’s unemployment is 2.9 percent. Hard to believe,” she said. “And when I shared those numbers with a local plant manager, quite emphatically he said, ‘We feel it!'”

 

The number of Caldwell residents with jobs also passed 35,500 for the first time since July 2008, when the Great Recession was hitting.

 

However, this unemployment report covers a period before the closure of Heritage Home Group’s operations in Lenoir last week. It’s not clear how many of those workers will remain unemployed for long. They were given a special period to meet with local employers at Caldwell is Hiring on Oct. 25, and other furniture companies had been advertising job openings in the News-Topic and elsewhere during the months since Heritage Home Group filed for bankruptcy protection.

 

Murray said that Caldwell’s unemployment rate might be even lower, and the number of residents with jobs higher, if not for the county’s shortage of housing, especially apartments, that meets what the current market demands are.

 

“We truly are at full employment. And not only are we at our lowest unemployment, we have been adding to the jobs available in the county,” she said. “Employment at Caldwell companies has increased faster than employment of Caldwell residents because of the lack of available housing. We continue to have an increasing number of workers coming in from other counties.”

 

Seasonal factors helped drive unemployment down in all 100 of the state’s counties in September, but only 22 counties saw a larger drop from August than Caldwell.

 

Catawba County’s unemployment rate dropped 0.9 percentage points to 2.7 percent, and Burke’s dropped 0.8 points to 2.8 percent.

 

Caldwell’s rate was tied for 32nd lowest in the state. The lowest rate was found in Buncombe County, 2.4 percent.

 

Caldwell’s rate could drop quite a bit further without setting a record. For much of 1999, the unemployment rate was below 2 percent, hitting its lowest point that May at 1.5 percent.

 

The Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton metropolitan statistical area’s overall unemployment rate of 2.8 percent is the fourth lowest among the state’s 15 metropolitan areas, behind only Asheville’s 2.5 percent and both Durham-Chapel Hill and Raleigh’s 2.7 percent.

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