Caldwell County unemployment rate unchanged

Feb. 06, 2014 @ 05:27 PM

Caldwell County’s unemployment rate held steady in December at 7.5 percent, the N.C. Department of Commerce reported Wednesday.

That interrupts a string of five consecutive months of drops in the rate but still leaves the county with a rate as low as it had been since June 2008.

Both the number of people who were unemployed and the size of the labor force, which essentially is the number of people with jobs and those who say they are actively looking for work, were little changed from November.

Because of the way that the unemployment rate is calculated — based on surveys of individuals — the rates for individual counties can fluctuate month to month, so the fact that the numbers held steady is positive, said Deborah Murray, executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission.

“To be honest, I’m happy to be steady. I’m glad there’s not been a lot of erratic up and down to it,” she said.

But echoing predictions Murray has made the past few months about what she expects will be strong first-quarter hiring, she said she thinks that some long-term unemployed people may soon feel encouraged enough to rejoin the labor force and start looking for work again — which could have a short-term effect of raising the unemployment rate.

People who indicate in surveys that they think there are no jobs that they are qualified for are not counted as part of the labor force, which makes the official unemployment rate lower than it otherwise would be. Officials and economists agree that this is the case in North Carolina currently, but they disagree on how much that has lowered the official rate.

Because of the fluctuations that can occur month to month so officials emphasize looking at year-to-year comparisons and longer-term trends. The Department of Commerce noted that all 100 counties in the state had a lower unemployment rate in December than they had a year earlier.

Caldwell County’s unemployment rate dropped 3.5 percentage points from December 2012, when it was 11 percent, to December 2013. Only 24 counties had a greater reduction. One of those was Burke County, which had a 7.3 percent unemployment rate, down 3.7 points from a year earlier. Catawba County, also with a rate of 7.3 percent, matched Caldwell’s year-over-year reduction.

Caldwell was one of only three counties that saw no change in their unemployment rates from November to December, while 86 saw their rates drop. Because Caldwell held steady while most counties saw declines, Caldwell’s rate is back in the bottom half of the counties: It rated 49th out of 100 in November but was 59th in December.

The statewide unemployment rate for December was 6.9 percent.