4-9-2020 – Virus crisis sets new economic benchmark

Posted on: April 9th, 2020 by admin


April 9, 2020



By Guy Lucas

Apr 08, 2020 1:37 PM


Caldwell County’s economy was humming along in February, according to the last report on unemployment to show what conditions were before coronavirus-prevention measures began to hit businesses.


And while that report on local unemployment says nothing about the economy now, it probably will become the new benchmark to mark Caldwell County’s recovery after this crisis, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission. Up until now, progress was measured against the numbers Caldwell experienced before and after the 2008 Great Recession, which made unemployment here spike to 17 percent in early 2010.


The county’s local unemployment rate dropped 0.4 percentage points to 3.6 percent from January to February, the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division reported. Only 38 of the state’s 100 counties had a better month-to-month improvement, and the county’s improvement from February 2019 was 0.9 points, tied for best in the state.


“While the February employment report is no indicator of today’s employment picture, it is a strong indicator of the health of our economy at the time the coronavirus hit,” Murray said. “As we go forward we will be measuring two things: progress made or necessary to get us back to the February numbers, and progress past that point.”


Unemployment claims statewide have shot up in recent weeks because of business slowdowns or closures related to measures to try to slow the spread of COVID-19. From March 16 through Saturday, there were nearly 408,000 claims filed, with 87% of applicants citing the COVID-19 virus as the reason for their job loss, reduced wages or furlough.


“The March and April reports will begin to show the (economic) decline and will become the low points from which we will recover,” Murray said. “And for now we are all doing everything we can to ensure the decline is as short-lived as possible. Flattening the (virus infection) curve has set us back so we can battle the virus, but keeping it flat will allow us to recover.”


The state report giving county-by-county unemployment numbers for March, when the economy was hit by the first severe waves of coronavirus-related closings, is expected to come out in about a month.

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