Editorial: Everyone has role in helping local economy

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 9, 2020

There’s less focus now on employment rates than there was in the days immediately following shutdowns and stay-at-home orders, but the data available is still worth paying close attention to, especially because it proves that individuals are still struggling.

National data showed last week there were 1.8 million jobs added in July. Usually, that would be welcome news, but there’s a steep climb to reach the peak on which the country found itself in February. The Associated Press reported that the national unemployment rate was 10.2%, a rate that’s still worse than the depths of the Great Recession. The rate was 11.1% one month prior.

There’s good news in the fact that Rowan County has been trending better than the national average. In June — the latest data available — Rowan County’s unemployment rate was 8.4%. There were 63,613 people in the labor force (those employed as well as those actively looking for work), 58,243 people employed and 5,370 people who were unemployed.

It’s a silver lining to the dark cloud that the local economy is still struggling.

There were fewer people in the workforce in June than there were just a few months earlier, with one possible reason being that people chose not to look for work. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show there were more than 2,000 people in the workforce in March than June, when COVID-19 first made its appearance and schools shut down. And there were more than 4,000 people in the workforce in February than there were in June.

Unemployment insurance claim data, meanwhile, show that a plurality of people receiving help work in manufacturing, according to initial and continued claim data. And the largest portion of claimants are in the 25 to 34 age group.

Another unfortunate development, Rowan County’s unemployment rate falls behind the state average. County Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds has described Rowan County as the “donut hole” when it comes to so many items, and especially on the economic front. And that statement appears to be relevant again: all of Rowan County’s neighboring counties have an unemployment rate.

Stanly County’s rate is best among neighboring counties — 6.3%.

Just like the country, Rowan County’s economy looks like it’s recovering, but data provide a small glimpse into the fact that joblessness is still a major issue for many of the community’s residents.

It’s critical for community leaders — from town halls to the town streets — to work together to address the issue by finding ways to match people who are looking for jobs with openings and promote programs like the N.C. Manufacturing Institute, which trains people for available jobs at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.

People can read about solutions in the Post or other news outlets or see possibilities online, but the best method for matching people with opportunities is when they hear it from a friend.

That’s why everyone plays a part in helping improve the unemployment rate. Whether it’s Chewy, which is hiring now via walk-in interviews Tuesdays through Thursdays, or a mom-and-pop shop, there are jobs out there.