1-5-2021 – Job numbers show stagnation

Posted on: January 5th, 2021 by admin


January 5, 2021



By Guy Lucas guylucas@newstopicnews.com

Jan 5, 2021 Updated 21 min ago


Caldwell County’s unemployment rate in November was unchanged from the previous month as hiring appeared to stall, a situation also reflected in statewide numbers.


Caldwell’s rate stayed at 6.6%, and both the size of the county’s labor force and the number of those unemployed barely changed from October, the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division reported.


But that put Caldwell in a better position than most of the rest of the state. The local unemployment rate rose in 76 of the 100 counties, including neighboring Burke and Catawba counties.


In most of the counties seeing an increase, however, the unemployment rate rose more than in Burke and Catawba. Both Burke and Catawba saw their rate rise by 0.1 of a percentage point, to 5.8% in Burke and 6.2% in Catawba, while in two-thirds of the other counties with an increase it went up by 0.2 to 0.4 of a point.


The lack of movement in the local unemployment rate was no surprise, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission.


“We were not expecting improvement in the November or December employment numbers, given the continued hold of the coronavirus and the comments from employers,” she said.


Although November normally does not see significant change in unemployment numbers, there remains a large gap between employment before the COVID-19-related shutdowns last spring and current employment. Nearly 3,000 fewer Caldwell County residents were employed in November than last February, according to the N.C. Budget and Tax Center, citing an analysis by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is a gap of 8.3%.


Only five counties still had a larger percentage decline in employment as of November – and two were Catawba and Alexander, at 8.4%. Burke was tied with Caldwell at 8.3%. The overall Hickory region’s 8.3% decline was second only to the Asheville area’s 8.4%.


Those percentages of lost jobs are higher than the unemployment rate, indicating that some of those who lost jobs in the spring may not be actively looking for a job. Some of those may not be looking for work – some may have retired or are staying home to watch after children who are learning remotely, for instance.


Local employers consistently report they have difficulty finding workers to fill jobs, Murray said.


“More and more employers are incorporating signing bonuses, employee referrals and increased wages among other strategies to attract new employees. Orders are strong and the backlog for orders seems to be increasing in a number of manufacturing plants,” she said. “Our employers are doing a lot with a strained employee base given the scheduling challenges that quarantines and isolations have added to the mix. When you add in the supply chain and logistics issues you have a truly challenging scenario. We have a lot of heroes in our midst these days, not the least of which are our employers and their management teams still successfully battling on their own front lines.”


In terms of the unemployment rate, metro areas in Eastern North Carolina fared the worst from October to November: Fayetteville remained with the state’s highest unemployment rate, going up 0.1 point to 8.4%, and Rocky Mount still had the second-highest, going up 0.1 point to 8.3%. Goldsboro and Jacksonville increased 0.2 to 6.1%, and Greenville went up 0.1 to 6.1%.


The Hickory metro area’s rate was unchanged at 6.1%.

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