HIGH POINT — The city’s job market has recovered from unprecedented unemployment levels at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic but has stagnated in recent months at jobless rates higher than Guilford County and the state.
The latest local unemployment report from the N.C. Department of Commerce shows the city jobless rate edged up from 7.3% in December to 7.5% in January. The High Point rate is higher than the overall Guilford County level at 6.9% in January and the state rate of 6% for the month.
The city unemployment rate has dropped noticeably from the 16.3% high mark in April 2020 following the COVID-19 shutdowns. But the High Point jobless level has remained in the 7% range since October.
Reflecting the ongoing impact of the pandemic on hiring, the city jobless rate in January 2020 was 4.7%.
One overriding factor stunting High Point’s job market recovery compared to other cities in the state is the lack of one major sector expanding, said Mike McCully, associate professor of economics at High Point University.
“Charlotte is doing good in finance, Durham and Chapel Hill are doing good in the information sector and professional services,” he told The High Point Enterprise. “Raleigh is also doing good in professional services, as well as trade and transport. Compared to some areas, we are more dependent on local consumer spending, and that’s still been on the slow side.”
Statewide, unemployment rates decreased in 62 of North Carolina’s counties in January, increased in 25 and remained unchanged in 13, according to the Commerce Department. Since January 2020, the number of workers employed statewide decreased 212,718, while the number of those unemployed increased 111,710. Those numbers don’t match because many who lost their jobs were not actively seeking work, such as people remaining home to take care of children taking classes remotely, and were not in the official count of the unemployed.
In most parts of North Carolina, the pace of the recovery from the depths of the pandemic has stagnated in recent months, said Patrick McHugh, research manager with the North Carolina Budget & Tax Center out of Raleigh.
An infusion of aid through the American Rescue Plan recently passed by Congress will help the recovery, he said. But many communities still struggle.
Nearly 60 of North Carolina’s 100 counties had fewer people working at the end of 2020 than before the Great Recession, the Budget & Tax Center reports. The Greensboro-High Point metropolitan area lost 20,800 jobs between February 2020 and January 2021, representing 5.7% of the workforce before the onset of the pandemic.
Many parts of the state had never recovered all of the jobs that disappeared in the Great Recession more than 10 years ago, meaning the employment losses during COVID-19 are further compounding a long-term problem, McHugh said.
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