Caldwell County's unemployment drops again

May. 02, 2013 @ 07:58 AM

Caldwell County’s unemployment rate continued its trend of year-over-year declines, dropping to 10.7 percent in March, a full 1.4 percentage points lower than the 12.1 percent rate seen in March 2012, the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division reported Wednesday.

The unemployment rate in February was 11.5 percent. The February-to-March change, a drop of 0.8 percentage points, was slightly better than the state average of 0.6 percentage points and the drops see in neighboring Catawba and Burke counties, 0.6 percentage points, or Alexander, 0.5.

But the March-to-March change was the fourth-best improvement in the state.

Larry Parker, a spokesman for the state Department of Commerce, had no specific explanation for Caldwell's improvement in comparison to the region and the state.

“You’re going to have folks that go unemployed to employed, but you’re also going to have folks that drop out of the labor force,” he explained, adding that the workforce in Caldwell is shaped by what other counties with larger populations would consider slight changes to employment.

Statistics for the overall metropolitan statistical area – consisting of Lenoir, Hickory and Morganton – show that since March 2012, professional and business services saw the largest gains in employment, adding some 1,200 workers. Leisure and hospitality added 800 jobs.

That more than offset losses of 600 jobs in the manufacturing industry and 300 in government over the same period.

Caldwell's workforce in March 2013, 38,085 people, was slightly smaller than the one in March 2012, 38,400. The total number of unemployed saw a similar decline, from 4,360 in March 2012 to 4,060 in March 2013.

Caldwell's unemployment rate briefly was even lower last fall -- it was 10.4 percent in September. But even while creeping back up to 12 percent in January, the year-to-year comparisons for each month have continued to show improvement. The rate had shot from 6.2 percent in April 2008, before the effects of the recession were felt, to 14.6 in February 2009 and peaked at 17 in February 2010.