7-30-2020 – Region’s rebound in jobs continues

Posted on: July 30th, 2020 by admin

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July 29, 2020

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By Guy Lucas
guylucas@newstopicnews.com

Jul 29, 2020 11:14 AM

 

Local unemployment rates dropped sharply in most of North Carolina from May to June as the economy continued recovering from coronavirus-related business closures in the spring, and Caldwell County’s drop was among the largest.

 

Caldwell’s unemployment rate dropped 5.9 percentage points to 8.5%, with a drop of more than 2,000 in the number of unemployed county residents, the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division reported.

 

Those numbers back up May’s unemployment report as evidence that temporary layoffs related to the coronavirus are steadily coming back, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission.

 

“Caldwell is keeping pace with other counties in reducing its unemployment and assisting companies with reopening,” she said.

 

But she said that another number is harder to interpret: From March to June of 2020, Caldwell showed a 3,700-person drop in the labor force, which is the combination of those with jobs and the unemployed who are actively searching for jobs.

 

Normally a drop like that could indicate discouragement among the unemployed, but the labor force normally drops in June because the county’s largest employer is the Caldwell County Schools, and many of those employees are on nine- or 10-month contracts and take the summer off.

 

“In 2020 it simply adds to hazy numbers that cannot be compared to any other time in recent history,” Murray said. “We continue to hear that some companies have had to incur layoffs even in recent weeks, while others are aggressively hiring and business is booming. There are still companies, large and small, opening new ventures in Caldwell. And unfortunately, some former businesses are choosing to sell or close, choosing to walk away during these tough times. This COVID event will have a permanent effect on the landscape of Caldwell business, some good and some bad.”

 

The unemployment rate dropped in all 100 counties in the state, but only 15 saw a greater decline than Caldwell – and three were neighboring counties: Catawba’s rate dropped 7.1 points to 8.6%; Burke’s dropped 6.3 points to 7.3%; and Alexander’s dropped 6.1 points to 7.7%.

 

That significant regional improvement added up to a 6.6-point drop in the overall Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton metropolitan statistical area’s unemployment rate to 8.2%, the second biggest drop among the state’s 15 metro areas. Only the Asheville area had a larger decrease, 6.7 points to 8.9%.

 

But the Hickory region still has not recovered its standing as having among the lowest unemployment rates in the state. Currently it has the fifth highest.

 

The Hickory region was among the hardest hit in spring job losses because of its concentration of manufacturing jobs involving durable goods, such as furniture, textiles and motor vehicle-related products, but that sector has been recovering faster than most.

 

Across the Hickory region, manufacturing regained about 900 jobs from May to June, the Labor and Economic Analysis Division reported – but there were still about 7,600 fewer manufacturing jobs than there were in June 2019. That means the region is still missing almost one-fifth of the manufacturing jobs it had before the pandemic, and it’s a greater number of lost jobs than was seen in any other sector of the economy.

 

More than 6,500 Caldwell residents lost jobs from March to April, but more than 1,000 had regained job by mid-May and about 1,800 more had by mid-June.

 

That still leaves the county’s number of employed workers more than 2,000 below the range that it had been for many months before the pandemic began, let alone the post-recession highs it had reached in early 2020.

 

Murray said that anyone looking for a job can look at the Caldwell Is Hiring page that the EDC maintains on Facebook, where it posts job openings it has been notified about throughout the Hickory region.

 

“The EDC is expanding this feature and will soon be maintaining a full 30 days of job postings on its website (caldwelledc.org) beginning early August in addition to continuing to post daily on social media,” she said.

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