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‘Applicant market’: Unemployment rate improving as businesses hire more workers

SALISBURY — While NCWorks is an agency dedicated to connecting North Carolinians with jobs, the pandemic forced it to shift strategies.

NCWorks is a statewide organization that provides resources and support to job seekers, including resume consultations and training programs. During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when more places were laying off workers than hiring new ones, NCWorks found other ways to support its clientele.

“It was more of an employment insurance focus at the time,” said Joseph Dismuke, director of the Salisbury center. “We were trying to put a safety net over the economy.”

Now as more people become vaccinated every day and the economy continues to accelerate, NCWorks  is once again locked in on training and linking people with open positions. And there are plenty of them for the organization with an office at 1904 S. Main St.

“It is an employee or applicant market,” Dismuke said. “Basically what happens is, right now there are a lot of jobs out there and there’s a lot of folks hiring out here. The applicant pool has a lot of opportunity to participate.”

Companies continuing to hire at a higher rate than layoffs, and a favorable economic outlook has resulted in an unemployment rate that continues to drop locally and throughout much of the state.

After reaching a jobless rate of 14.4% in April 2020, Rowan County’s unemployment rate has continued to improve. In January, the county’s unemployment rate was 6.1%, which was much higher than one year earlier (3.9%), but it was lower than December (6.4%). In February, the unemployment rate dipped slightly, dropping to 5.9%. Those numbers are not seasonally adjusted, meaning that seasonal hiring patterns have not been removed from the data.

The state’s seasonally adjusted February unemployment rate was 5.7%, decreasing 0.2 points from January’s rate. Not seasonally adjusted unemployment rates decreased in 96 of North Carolina’s counties in February. The national jobless rate decreased 0.1 points to 6.2% in the same month.

“We’re actually moving in the right direction, but of course we want to move at a quicker pace if we can,” Dismuke said.

To keep the unemployment rate improving, Dismuke said NCWorks is trying to encourage people who are unemployed to rejoin the workforce. Although people have had enough “resources” to sustain themselves, Dismuke said those resources will likely taper off in the coming months. He wants people to have a job when they do.

“That’s what we’re trying to change to motivate folks to get back out here,” Dismuke said. “Those resources are going to change eventually and planning for the future is one things we want people to start thinking about.”

To encourage people to get back on the job hunt, NCWorks in conjunction with various other community partners is hosting a drive-thru job fair at the NCWorks Center today from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The fair will feature a handful of local employers, including Chewy, Continental Structural Plastics, Food Lion, Bonney Staffing and Gildan.

For those who can’t attend the drive-thru fair on Friday, Dismuke said they can come to the NCWorks office anytime it’s open on Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Another job fair will be hosted on Saturday by Egger, a wood-based materials supplier with a facility located in Linwood. The company is looking to hire full-time production operators and forklift drivers to work a 12-hour, rotating swing shift at its state-of-the-art particleboard production facility. Starting base pay is $14-$16/hour, plus shift differential. The job fair will be held at Egger’s facility at 300 EGGER Parkway in Linwood from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Egger is one of many local manufacturers who are currently looking to fill positions, Dismuke said.

“Manufacturing is looking at folks a lot more than some of the other sectors, so I see them making a strong comeback,” Dismuke said.

Even businesses in the hard-hit hospitality sector are starting to rehire employees, Dismuke said.  With so many businesses looking to land workers, Dismuke said it’s an ideal time to be a job seeker.

“I even see McDonalds and food and hospitality folks trending up,” Dismuke said. “The things like salaries and their benefit packages have changed tremendously and that’s motivating folks also.”

Dismuke said he understands some people are still hesitant to look for work because of safety concerns. If COVID-19 case numbers continue to trend down and more people receive the vaccine, Dismuke said he expects more people to look for work again, somewhat equalizing the current unbalance.

More info about job listings and upcoming hiring events can be found online at ncworks.gov.

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