Latest job reports show local turnaround

·2 min read

Jun. 3—HIGH POINT — What an economic difference a year can make.

The latest local job market report released Wednesday shows the dramatic recovery in employment since the coronavirus pandemic put a stranglehold on the economy entering the spring of last year.

The city of High Point unemployment rate edged down from 5.9% in March to 5.7% in April. This April's unemployment level contrasts with April 2020, when the city jobless rate skyrocketed to 16.8% in the immediate aftermath of pandemic-related shutdowns.

The situation with the vastly improving local job market is reflected across the state. Unemployment rates decreased in 91 of North Carolina's counties from March to April, increased in seven and remained unchanged in two, according to the monthly report from the state Department of Commerce.

That means in a year's time local and statewide jobless rates have gone from high marks exceeding the unemployment hardship of the Great Recession to levels now approaching a healthy job market. Historically, an unemployment rate at or below 5% has been considered a robust employment market.

The improving job market has compelled Republican elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, R-13th, to push federal and state legislation to try to convert extended, extra federal unemployment benefits to one-time bonuses for people who take jobs.

The N.C. Department of Commerce reports that the number of North Carolinians in the workforce has grown noticeably in the past year. Since April 2020, the number of workers employed statewide has increased 710,828, while the number of people unemployed decreased 395,936.

One cautionary note for the local economy involves the manufacturing sector.

This past March, the number of manufacturing jobs in the Greensboro-High Point metropolitan statistical area remained about 2,600 short of the number in March 2020, the last report before the pandemic shutdowns. In April, the number of local manufacturing jobs dropped by about 100 since March.

Overall, though, the recovery in the area's job market continued in April, said Mike McCully, associate professor of economics at High Point University. Job gains were posted in construction, transportation and temporary service employment, McCully told The High Point Enterprise.

The upcoming May and June local unemployment reports should provide insight into how the pullback of mask restrictions and other COVID-19 emergency orders help the job market, especially in the restaurant and hospitality fields, McCully said.

pjohnson@hpenews.com — 336-888-3528 — @HPEpaul