Caldwell County unemployment down slightly from a year ago

Apr. 11, 2013 @ 07:52 AM

Caldwell County's unemployment rate dropped by almost half of a percentage point from January to February, putting it a full percentage point lower than February of last year, according to a state report released Wednesday.

The 11.6 percent rate in February was down from 12 percent in January and from 12.6 percent in February 2012, the state Department of Commerce reported.

The county’s work force has remained relatively steady, at about 38,000, over the past year, while the number of them employed has increased by about 400. The change in employment from January to February amounted to 17 people.

Despite what appear like small gains, “that’s a positive” in a county with a relatively small work force, said Randy Parker, spokesman for the state Labor and Economic Division. “That means people are finding work.”

Two-thirds of the 900 jobs added in towns and cities across the county and in nearby Hickory were in the food and beverage and the hospitality industries. Those areas lost a total of about 100 manufacturing jobs during the same period.

The decline in unemployment here was similar to Catawba County, where the rate dropped slightly less than a full percentage point, from 11.6 percent to 10.8 percent, from January to February. The unemployment rate there last February was 11.7 percent.

The state’s unemployment rate in February was 9.5 percent, compared with a national rate of 8.1 percent. Across the state, about 1,300 people found work in February from the previous month, according to the report.

Caldwell’s unemployment rate remains high compared to other counties across the state, the 29th highest rate out of 100. Graham County, in the Smokey Mountains about an hour west of Asheville, has the highest unemployment rate, slightly more than 20 percent; the lowest rate is less than 7 percent, in Orange County in the Triangle.