DAVIDSON COUNTY — As North Carolina continues through a reopening plan that has been defined by restrictions and executive orders invoked due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state has seemingly seen a U-shaped recovery economically.

In Davidson County, that recovery over a five-month stretch has taken the area’s unemployment rate from 6.3% in August 2020 to 5.8% in January, according to the most recent data from the N.C. Department of Commerce. After shaving off percentage points from the rate last summer, the county is slowly but steadily building upon the gains it made at that time.

Earlier this month, Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order that state officials hope will improve efforts to help those receiving unemployment benefits to return to work. Executive Order 200 establishes a flexible work search requirement for the most recent individuals to file for benefits. This step, Cooper says, will ensure that out-of-work residents can continue to seek assistance available through NCWorks and other state-sponsored programs, even with the expiration of federal extended benefits.

“More jobs are being created as we begin to emerge from the pandemic, and people who are out of work need help getting them,” Cooper said. “Unemployment payments have been critical for families and we want them to have jobs before the payments end.”

Since the start of the pandemic, more than $10 billion in unemployment benefits has been disbursed to North Carolinians through multiple state and federal benefit programs. Davidson’s rate is one of several throughout the state that spiked at double-figures before receding to a level markedly higher than the year prior. The county sits 2.3% higher from a year ago, when the rate was at 3.5% in January 2020.

All of the state’s 15 metro areas experienced rate increases over the course of a year, according to the report. In 62 of the state’s 100 counties, including Davidson, the unemployment rate did decrease slightly in January.

The unemployment rate measures the percentage of employable people in the workforce who are over the age of 16 and who have either lost their jobs or have unsuccessfully sought jobs in the last month and are still actively seeking work.

In the surrounding area, Randolph County’s rate fell to 5.9% in January, down from 6.1% in December. Rates in other surrounding counties were 6.9% in Guilford; 6.0% in Forsyth; 6.1% in Rowan; and 5.4% in Montgomery.

The January rate for Davidson ranks as the 43rdh lowest in the state, leaving the county — which is part of the Winston-Salem Metropolitan Statistical Area — among one of the state’s middling Tier 2 counties in the midst of recovery. The number of unemployed in Davidson County stands at 4,560 people. Davidson’s labor force now stands at 79,061.

North Carolina’s statewide, non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.0% in January, which is down from 6.1% in December, but still an increase of 2.4% over the year. The national unemployment rate remains at 6.2%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at dkennedy@atnonline.net.

Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at dkennedy@atnonline.net.