Stanly had more than 1,400 people file for unemployment insurance claims

Stanly County, like many counties in the country, has been hit hard due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many people have been laid off or furloughed, which has greatly impacted the economy, especially sales tax revenue, which has sharply declined.

There have been 31 confirmed cases in the county, with four deaths.

Stanly had 1,416 people file for unemployment in March because of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to data released last week from the state’s Department of Commerce. The number represents 82 percent of all initial unemployment insurance claims filed in the month (1,724).

The numbers of claims filed affected more women in the county (1,093 claims filed) than men (631 claims filed). Of those filing for unemployment, 1,360 were white, 201 were black, 113 were of another race and 50 were labeled as “race unknown.” Within the numbers, 48 people were Hispanic.

According to the data, the people who filed the claims were overwhelmingly young. The largest portion of local people filing for unemployment were those between the ages 25 and 34, which accounted for 483 claims, and those ages 35 to 44, which accounted for 339 claims.

The three industries most impacted by the pandemic in March were educational and health services (348 claims), leisure and hospitality (335 claims) and manufacturing (274 claims). The loss of workers in these industries, along with many others, has led to an untold amount of lost revenue during the past two months.

Between March 15 and May 7, of the 1,085,276 unemployed insurance claims filed in the state, 907,533 were because of COVID-19. During the same time, a total of 470,677 people across the state were paid unemployment insurance, with payments totaling around $1.45 billion.

The county had 1,279 people unemployed for March, which translates to a 4.3 percent unemployment rate. The March rate was lower than the one in February (3.7 percent) and the one in March 2019 (3.8 percent).

“There is no doubt that Stanly County was experiencing historically low unemployment and economic prosperity prior to COVID-19,” said EDC director Candice Lowder. “These are certainly unprecedented times for workers in our county, state and nation.”

She said that at the beginning of the crisis, most economists and leaders were optimistic about a V-shaped economic recovery — a sharp collapse followed by a bounce back to pre-pandemic levels. Now about two months into the pandemic, Lowder said analysts agree that the better model is a U-shaped economic recovery — a more prolonged period of uncertainty followed by a delayed and gradual rebound, which could take “as long as 18-24 months” as states slowly reopen “amid threats of  second and third waves of virus outbreaks as therapies and vaccines are being developed.”

Lowder added that the state data reflects non-farm unemployment and since Stanly “has a large number of agricultural-based businesses compared to many counties in our region,” she is “optimistic” that the “presence of these businesses in our community may reduce the number of unemployment applications per capita.”

Stanly’s unemployment rate was a mixed bag when compared to other local counties. It compared favorably to many nearby rural counties (Montgomery was 4.3, Anson 4.9 and Richmond 5.8), but had a higher rate than larger, more urban ones (Cabarrus was 3.9, Mecklenburg 3.9 and Union 3.8.)

The state’s unemployment rate for March was slightly lower than Stanly’s, at 4.2 percent.

The national unemployment rose to 14.7 percent for April, the highest level since the Great Depression in the early 1930s, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, and 20.5 million jobs were lost.

Though the county-level data for the number of people unemployed in April and for those who filed unemployment insurance claims in the month have not yet been released, they will likely be higher since the coronavirus didn’t hit the state until mid-March. Lowder expects the county’s unemployment rate for April to be “considerably over” the March rate.

Though the pandemic will likely continue to wreak havoc on Stanly in the coming weeks and possibly months, “we stand ready to assist our local employers to leverage all available resources to assist in their recovery efforts,” Lowder said.