Caldwell County's unemployment rate hits 5-year low

Dec. 06, 2013 @ 08:33 AM

The unemployment rate in Caldwell County dropped in October to its lowest point in more than five years, the N.C. Department of Commerce reported Thursday.

October’s rate was 8.3 percent, down from 8.9 percent in August. Because of the federal government shutdown in October, state officials had not been able to issue updated county-by-county figures since Oct. 2, when they released the August rates.

The last time Caldwell's unemployment rate was lower was September 2008, when it was 7.9 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. From that point, the effects of the recession rapidly drove the rate up to 14.6 percent in February 2009 and a peak of 17 percent in February 2010.

"I'm encouraged," said Deborah Murray, executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission. "Obviously we're pleased as long as that number continues to go down."

Caldwell County has seen steady year-over-year improvement in its unemployment rate as well as the total number of people who are unemployed. The unemployment rate for October was 2.4 percentage points lower than in October 2012, the state’s Labor and Economic Analysis Division reported. That reduction is tied for ninth-best among North Carolina’s counties.

Murray noted that state figures show that 307 jobs were added in Caldwell from August to October, and significant hiring either underway or about to start by a number of local companies -- including Woodgrain Millwork, Bakers Waste Products, Exela Pharma Sciences and Greer Labs -- indicates positive jobs reports in the coming months.

"I think it's time we shift our focus from how high the unemployment rate is to how we're growing the rate of employment" and local wages, she said.

The state’s overall unemployment rate for October dropped to 7.5 percent. The unemployment rate dropped in 56 of North Carolina's 100 counties and was unchanged in 14.