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Rowan’s unemployment rate up slightly at start of 2020

SALISBURY — Rowan County started out 2020 with a slightly worse rate than one year earlier and with a higher unemployment rate than its neighboring counties and the state of North Carolina.

Rowan County’s unemployment rate is currently 3.8%, not seasonally adjusted, according to data released from the North Carolina Department of Commerce. When a number is not seasonally adjusted, it means it hasn’t yet accounted for large seasonal patterns.

North Carolina’s rate is 3.7%. Counties including Cabarrus, Davie, Iredell and Davidson fall in line with or better than the state rate. The U.S. unemployment rate at the end of 2019 was 3.5%.

The estimates come from the Local Area Unemployment Statistics program, which is a federal and state cooperative initiative. To calculate the unemployment rate, the number of unemployed persons must be divided by the total number of people in the workforce. The North Carolina Department of Commerce released the December county and area employment figures on Feb. 5, without seasonal adjustments. Since the employment estimates are subject to large seasonal patterns, the department advises to focus on the over-the-year changes.

Rowan County ranked 62nd in over-the-year changes — seeing its unemployment rate increase by .1% — while Davie and Cabarrus counties saw their numbers decrease and received a ranking within the top 20 — at 14th and 17th, respectively.

Rod Crider, president and CEO of the Salisbury-Rowan Economic Development Commission, said it’s typical for Rowan County to be “a nudge or two” higher than surrounding counties. But he doesn’t cite the slight increase as an area for concern because the rate is still low and local businesses are hiring.

Crider added the 0.1% or 0.2% worse rate can serve as a positive attribute when attracting businesses because it shows Rowan County has a larger available workforce than its neighboring counties.

Cause for concern would arise if the overall unemployment rate was at least one or two whole points higher, he said.

Eric Hake, economics professor and dean of the Ketner School of Business at Catawba College, said several factors can account for why a community’s unemployment rate can worsen despite the economy doing well. Those reasons could be a change in the number of people in the labor force or a change in the number of people looking for jobs who previously weren’t looking or included in previous years.

Additionally, Hake said, though the unemployment rate is lower than it has been in decades, wages could stay stagnant, which affects the overall economy.

It’s most important, Hake said, to judge behavior over time.

In Rowan County, the unemployment rate steadily decreased from 4.5% in 2019 until April. Then, it increased until June 2019, and has since decreased to its unadjusted rate of 3.8%. Neighboring counties seemed to follow a similar trend, with higher unemployment rates in the spring and/or summer months. Crider said the higher unemployment rates in the summer can derive from businesses’ summer hiring practices. And retailers often hire additional help in the latter part of the year to prepare for the holidays.

The unadjusted employment rates for other counties nearby are as follows:

  • Cabarrus: 3.1% (not seasonally adjusted)
  • Davidson: 3.3% (not seasonally adjusted)
  • Davie: 3.0% (not seasonally adjusted)
  • Iredell: 3.2% (not seasonally adjusted)

Out of 100 total counties, Buncombe, Orange and Watauga counties ranked among the top three best rates of unemployment, all falling below 3%. Hyde, Scotland and Tyrell counties ranked within the bottom three. Hyde County’s unemployment rate, unadjusted, is 9.7%.

The next unemployment update will be released on March 16. Then, the January 2020 numbers will be released.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at (704) 797-4246.

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