Column: Much work remains on job gains

Sep. 07, 2013 @ 01:21 AM

While most of have recovered from our Labor Day festivities and a few are still enjoying what became a weeklong celebration, I am looking back today.

A few days prior to Labor Day weekend our unemployment numbers for July were released, and finally Caldwell County fell below double digits to a remarkable 9.9 percent. Finally! It has been a long time since the News-Topic could report such a low unemployment number. It’s the lowest number since I arrived four years ago, and much lower than our February 2010 number of 17.1 percent.

Everyone understands that the work is far from over; 9.9 percent is not a good number. And we still need to grow our labor force and number of people employed. The labor force in February 2010 was 39,599, while by July 2013 it had dropped to 37,826, which means some people retired, some people moved away, and others have just quit looking for work. But the good news is that about 900 more Caldwell County adults were employed in July than in February 2010.

In reading posts to us on Facebook about the unemployment rate, a couple of people still sounded angry and frustrated. It’s easy to understand and empathize with those readers, especially if they’re still looking for work, or full-time work, or work with some level of benefits. It’s easy to understand if they’ve tried everything and still cannot find adequate employment.

But the good news is leaders in our community are still working extremely hard towards improving our numbers. The Economic Development Commission is still holding job fairs and courting new employers and helping existing employers to expand the area’s workforce. We have non-profits that are stretched to the limits but still provide services, like food and medical care.

Fortunately we are not a community that gives up. We are a community that is continuing to fight and continuing to help others. When I moved here four years ago, I had some idea about high unemployment as I had spent 10 years in northern Minnesota. It’s an area called the Iron Range because of its high concentration of iron ore. It’s also an area that has seen high unemployment, due to mine closings and layoffs. But nothing prepared me for what years and years of high unemployment could do to an area and nothing prepared me for what a group of passionate people could do to improve their situations.

We will continue to fight, and hopefully we will continue to celebrate new company openings, new jobs and a shared sense of helping others in need. We should all take pride in what we’ve accomplished and what we will accomplish in the future.