Stanly’s July unemployment rises

Stanly County saw an uptick in the number of people out of work for July after experiencing a significant decline in June, according to new county-specific data from the state’s Department of Commerce which was released Wednesday.

Stanly had 2,214 people unemployed in July, which translates to a 7.2 percent unemployment rate. Though the numbers are worse than in June, when the county had a 6.3 percent unemployment rate with 1,893 people out of work, they are still substantially better than in May, when the unemployment rate was 10.2 percent and 3,133 people were jobless.

While the number of people without work increased, so too did the number of people employed. There were 30,804 people with jobs in July, up from the 29,918 people who were employed in June.

Stanly’s July rate is about three percentage points worse when compared to July of last year, when the rate was 4.0 percent, though the ongoing coronavirus pandemic likely accounts for the discrepancy.

While County Manager Andy Lucas doesn’t know what specifically caused the uptick in unemployment for July, he said many businesses in the county are still closed or with “significant restrictions in terms of capacity which impacts a business’ decision to bring back staff.”

He said Gov. Roy Cooper’s announcement Tuesday that the state would be moving into Phase 2.5 starting Friday — where gyms and indoor exercise facilities could open at 30 percent capacity and museums at 50 percent — would have a negligible impact on the county since many local gyms have already been open under a medical exemption. The Stanly County History Center has also been open since it is aligned with the Stanly County Public Library.

“Anytime businesses are reopened, that’s good for our economy,” Lucas said, “because it gets people back to work.”

Economic Development Director Candice Lowder said the rise in unemployment can likely be attributed to several factors including continued layoffs in different sectors of the economy and businesses having expended their Personal Paycheck Protection loans, which were only intended to temporarily keep them and their employees afloat.

“Our hope is that businesses who received PPP loans have been able to restore and continue their operations, recover from supply chain and customer disruptions, and will continue to be able to retain employees despite the temporary economic slowdown,” Lowder said.

Stanly’s increase was not an isolated incident. Unemployment rates increased in July for 99 counties in the state and remained unchanged in the other, according to the Department of Commerce.

The county’s July unemployment rate matched up favorably against the rest of the state, ranking 22nd out of the 100 counties. Stanly was tied with Union and had a lower rate than all the other nearby counties in the Charlotte metropolitan area. It also had a lower rate than two of its four peer counties, with only Chatham and Carteret posting better totals.

North Carolina’s seasonally adjusted unemployment increased to 8.5 percent from 7.5 percent in June, as the number of people on the job grew by 72,211 to more than 4.5 million people overall. The number of people jobless, though, also increased 62,712 over the month to 419,812o.

The federal employment rate dropped to 10.2 percent from 11.1 percent and the economy gained 1.8 million jobs, a decline from the 4.8 million jobs added in June, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

More than 93,000 North Carolinians filed COVID-19 related initial claims in July, slightly lower than the 95,000 who filed in June and much lower than the roughly 162,000 who filed in May and the 400,000 who filed in April. More than 2.2 million claims have been filed in the state since March 15.

The number of people in Stanly who filed initial claims increased slightly in July. Stanly had 505 people file COVID-19 related initial unemployment insurance claims (out of 828 total initial claims) compared to the 437 who filed in June. The July number is still far lower than the 694 people who filed in May and the 1,779 people who filed in April.

Of the total numbers of initial claims that were filed, women filed 438 while there is no available data for how many claims men in the county filed. Of those filing for unemployment, 519 were white, 200 were Black, 59 were another race and 50 were labeled as “race unknown.” Within the numbers, only 30 people who filed were Hispanic.

The people who filed the claims were predominantly younger, with those ages 25 to 34 filing the most claims at 226 followed by those 35 to 44 (167 claims), 45 to 54 (164 claims) and people less than 25 (112 claims).

The three industries most impacted by the pandemic in July were unclassified or unknown (206 claims), manufacturing (163 claims) and professional and business services (121 claims).

Stanly has already received roughly $2.5 million from the state for coronavirus-related needs of which around $622,ooo has been allocated to the municipalities based on population size. The money is part of the $400 billion the state received from the federal government as part of the CARES Act Relief Fund.