6-3-2021 – Caldwell makes small progress on jobs

Posted on: June 3rd, 2021 by admin

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June 3, 2021

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By Guy Lucas guylucas@newstopicnews.com

Jun 2, 2021

 

In Caldwell County and most counties across the state, small drops in the number of people without jobs helped local unemployment rates edge down in April.

 

The number of Caldwell residents with jobs climbed close to what it was just before the COVID-19-related shutdowns of last spring, but the number of filled jobs in the hard-hit manufacturing sector of the overall Hickory region still lags behind pre-pandemic levels.

 

Caldwell’s unemployment rate declined 0.2 percentage points to 4.5%, barely higher than the statewide median rate of 4.3%, the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division reported. The division also revised down the county’s March unemployment rate to 4.7% from the originally reported 4.8%.

 

A little more than 6,500 Caldwell residents lost jobs last spring. With the April report, the number of employed is just a few dozen shy of what it had been before the shutodwns, and there are still plenty of job openings, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission.

 

“The good news is that we are back to pre-pandemic employment,” she said. “On the flip side, any employer will tell you it is difficult to find new workers. We have launched several efforts during the last month to encourage those who aren’t working to consider coming back.”

 

The labor force — the number of people counted as either working or looking for a job — has been slower to recover than the number of people with jobs. Statewide, the labor force dropped in April, but the number counted as unemployed dropped even more, and that was reflected in most counties, including Catawba County.

 

In Caldwell and Burke counties, the labor force ticked up just slightly while the number of unemployed dropped by more than 100 each.

 

“There truly never has been a better time to be looking for a job than today,” Murray said. “Employers have recognized that to land the best employee, especially in certain wage ranges, the competition is fierce — it is an employee’s market. Those looking for work can leverage the things most important to them in landing their next job. Wages have increased, benefits have been modified, schedules in some cases have become more flexible, and certainly signing bonuses and incentives have become more common.”

 

The EDC post all jobs its staff is aware of throughout the Hickory region on the Caldwell Is Hiring Virtual Job Fair page on Facebook, and the last 30 days of job postings is available on the EDC website, caldwelledec.org, she said. Hoping to lure more young adults into the labor market, the EDC is trying to encourage new high school graduates to look at the postings and also has created a summer jobs section on its website that will post new jobs through mid-June.

 

In the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton metropolitan statistical region, the economic sector with the most job gains from March to April was leisure and hospitality, where jobs increased by about 600. Manufacturing was second with about 300 added jobs.

 

Although the leisure sector had been the hardest hit statewide by the pandemic and had the most room to rebound, in the Hickory region manufacturing was hit harder.

 

In March, the number of manufacturing jobs in the Hickory region still was more than 2,000 behind the number that existed before the pandemic-related shutdowns of late March and April 2020, so with April’s gains the number of jobs was still about 1,700 below where it was in early March 2020.

 

By comparison, in the leisure sector the number of jobs this past March in the region was only about 600 behind the number in early March 2020, so April’s gains put the number close to even.

 

Murray said manufacturers in particular are eager to find workers to fill vacancies.

 

“Manufacturers have continued to grow through the pandemic and are anxious to add to their workforce,” she said.

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