9-3-2020 – Workers surge back into labor force

Posted on: September 3rd, 2020 by admin


September 3, 2020



By Guy Lucas

Sep 02, 2020 11:09 AM


The number of people with jobs surged in Caldwell County and statewide in July, but local unemployment rates jumped as thousands of people who sat out the workforce in June came back looking for jobs in July, according to the latest state report.


Caldwell County’s unemployment rate jumped 1.5 percentage points to 9.7 percent even as the number of people with jobs increased by more than 1,300, the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division reported. Unemployment rates rose in 99 of the state’s 100 counties, generally reflecting the same trends seen in Caldwell.


The county’s labor force – those who have jobs combined with those actively looking for work – surged by more than 1,800 people to more than 38,000, according to the report.


That means the labor force is back to the around the level it achieved in 2019 for the first time since the 2008 recession, but the surge also pushed the number of unemployed up by nearly 500 to almost 3,400.


From March to June, Caldwell showed a 3,700-person drop in the labor force, but it has been difficult to evaluate what that meant for the underlying economy because of various factors related to the coronavirus, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission. Anecdotal reports by local employers indicated that some workers were reluctant to rejoin the workforce while receiving federally enhanced unemployment benefits. Congress authorized adding $600 a week to benefits starting in the spring, but that expired July 25.


“As the pandemic lingers, a number of employers have been forced to adjust to its grip on their businesses. We continue to hear of layoffs where employers are forced to shrink some departments and add to others – or smaller, more vulnerable businesses contemplate staying open at all,” she said.


The timing of the economic downturn also coincided with the end of the school year. Normally in June and July the local unemployment rate rises as jobs end for school employees on nine- or 10-month contracts.


More than 6,500 Caldwell residents lost jobs from March to April, but more than 1,000 had regained a job by mid-May, about 1,800 more had by mid-June and more than 1,300 by mid-July.


With the July increase in the number of Caldwell residents who are employed, the county is getting closer to the employment level it had before coronavirus-related business closings began in March.


Murray said there are plenty of jobs available in the region.


“That is evidenced by the numbers of companies and the hundreds upon hundreds of jobs posted on the EDC website and Caldwell Is Hiring social media,” she said. “It is a complicated time – and it is a challenge to manage – but it isn’t all bad news and it isn’t a failing economy. We are very optimistic.”


Other counties also reflected the same kinds of changes as Caldwell. In neighboring Catawba County, the number of those with jobs increased by more than 2,500 from June to nearly 75,800, but the number of unemployed also rose by more than 700 to nearly 6,300. In Burke County, those with jobs increased by more than 1,400 to almost 39,000, but the number of unemployed rose by more than 400.


Catawba’s local unemployment rate rose by 1 percentage point to 9.3 percent in July, and Burke’s rose by 1.2 points to 8.3 percent.


Statewide, the number of those with jobs increased by more than 140,000, but the number of those without jobs grew by more than 60,000.

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