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Unemployment rate climbs in July; Rowan County’s rate higher than neighbors’

SALISBURY — Rowan County saw its unemployment rate climb in July, doubling from a year earlier and continuing a trend of the county having a higher jobless rate than its neighbors.

With local businesses still reeling from the economic effects of COVID-19, the county’s July unemployment rate was 9.4% in data released last week. While national unemployment data for August was released Friday, state and county data is usually delayed.

Rowan’s July unemployment rate was up 1.2% from June and higher than 78 of North Carolina’s 100 counties, according to data released by the North Carolina Department of Commerce. The 9.4% unemployment rate for July was 5.1% higher than July 2019.

The numbers released by the Department of Commerce are not seasonally adjusted, meaning seasonal hiring patterns were not taken into account. However, there is no similar pattern of the unemployment rate rising between June and July in the recent past, according to data from the Bureau of Labor statistics. 

In response to the unemployment numbers, Rowan County Board of Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds said that local companies are still struggling against several factors.

“We’re seeing local companies still struggling to stay open. A lot of folks are afraid to get out still. That’s hurting folks. Our entertainment and tourism is struggling, I think, more than most counties,” Edds said. 

He also said that COVID-19 restrictions put in place have made it difficult for companies.

“I just hope we can get out from under this lockdown pretty soon and return to some sense of normalcy so we can save people’s livelihoods and jobs and these companies that people’s families rely on for food, clothing and shelter,” Edds said.

The increase in Rowan County’s July jobless rate mirrored that of the rest of the state, with 99 out of 100 counties seeing their unemployment rates increase. And the increase may be tied to the fact that the number of people considered in the labor force — employed or actively looking for work — rose in July locally and across the state. Someone unemployed and actively looking for work is not counted as being in the labor force and, therefore, not counted in the unemployment rate.

There were 65,724 people in the Rowan County labor force in July and 63,613 in June. The number of people in the labor force or actively looking for work across the state rose by 83,070 in the same period.

Rowan County’s non-seasonally adjusted July unemployment rate (9.4%) was higher than that of neighboring counties. Here’s how the counties stack up:

• Rowan 9.4%

• Iredell 8.7%

• Cabarrus 8.6%

• Stanly 7.2%

• Davidson 8.5%

• Davie 8.1%

Across the state, Scotland County had the highest unemployment rate at 14.1%. Camden County had the lowest, at 6.1%. 

Gov. Roy Cooper recently moved the state into phase 2.5 of his coronavirus reopening plan, allowing more businesses like museums and bowling alleys to open and increasing capacity for gatherings. Edds said that he hopes to see more restrictions eased in the future.

“Anytime there’s easing of restrictions, it’s by definition going to impact some businesses,” Edds said. “We hope it’s to a positive degree. Our next phase may be 2.68 and that may ease a few more companies and hopefully put some folks back to work.”

July initial unemployment insurance claims in Rowan County totaled 1,793, of which 1,080 were COVID-19 related. There were 4,170 continued unemployment claims, of which 2,831 were COVID-19 related.

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