RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – The employment picture in North Carolina continues to be drawn along an outline of confusion, given that one company abruptly laid off thousands, others stepped up because of their need to hire workers and the state saw rises in unemployment rates one month that decreased more than most states just a couple of weeks later.

United Furniture in Archdale last month abruptly closed and without notice left about 2,700 employees without income or benefits, which was followed by the invitation last week from numerous companies where those UFI employees were needed and wanted, with several of those companies being part of the furniture industry.

Statewide unemployment rates in October. (NC Department of Commerce)

All that followed the NC Department of Commerce’s report that new unemployment rates in October had increased from September in 99 of the state’s 100 counties and in all 15 of its metro areas, to 3.9% overall.

In the Triad, those rates mostly were slightly over or under 4%, ranging from as low as 3.6% in Stokes and Davie counties to 4.5% in Rockingham County. Most rates increased by about .6 or .7 points, and all rates remained below the same month in 2021.

Edgecombe County had the highest unemployment rate, at 7.5%, and Orange County had the lowest, at 3.1%. Warren County was the only county to show a decline, falling from 7.7% to 7% in October.

Among the 15 metro areas, the Winston-Salem market had the fewest job changes from the prior month, with a .6% decline. Greensboro-High Point MSA was at .01%, and both Burlington and Charlotte-Concord MSAs, which include pieces of the Triad, dropped by .1%. Rocky Mount had the highest unemployment rate, at 6.2%, and Asheville, Durham-Chapel Hill, and Raleigh each had the lowest at 3.3%.

Better in November

But WalletHub, the financial advice site that tracks unemployment claims and trends on a weekly basis, reported that for the week ending Nov. 21, new unemployment claims in North Carolina were 35.95% lower than in the previous week, which was the 9th biggest decrease in the country, and 71.5% lower than a year ago, which was the second biggest decrease.

Overall the state ranked fourth nationally for week-over-week decrease and fifth for claims per 100,000 residents. WalletHub’s data found only that South Dakota, Virginia and Georgia had performed better.

Connecticut, Wisconsin, Ohio and Idaho ranked at the bottom, (Nos. 51-48, in reverse order, with the District of Columbia included).

Source: WalletHub

Need for workers

But data also show that there are more job openings than there are unemployed people, which poses a different situation for the workforce.

Jeffrey B. Arthur of Virginia Tech (WalletHub)

“Unemployment is really no longer an issue since the country has recovered from much of the fallout of the pandemic,” Jill Gonzalez, a WalletHub analyst, said in its release. “The next step might be looking to open up immigration to fill the surplus of jobs nationwide. Doing so would not only help businesses meet their needs but would also drive additional economic growth.”

Said Jeffrey B. Arthur, a management professor at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia: “Higher unemployment means that it is more difficult (and costly) to find replacements for current employees. This increases employee bargaining power to make employment demands of employers.

“Employers are also motivated to provide employees with additional benefits such as tuition reimbursement and flexible work arrangements in order to attract and retain them.”

Career fairs continue

Triad companies help former United Furniture Industries employees (WGHP)
Triad companies help former United Furniture Industries employees (WGHP)

That’s in large part why so many companies stepped forward in the Triad to lure the UFI employees, where the company is under scrutiny and a lawsuit has been filed.

To help, NCWorks created a series of career fairs to help the displaced employees, and three more are scheduled for this coming week:

  • Dec. 13: NC Works Guilford (High Point location), from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Dec. 14: Kaleidium North in Winston-Salem, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Dec. 15: Goodwill, University Parkway in Winston Salem, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“Partners from across the Triad recognize the need to highlight NCWorks services today,” Wendy Walker-Fox, executive director of the Piedmont Triad Regional Workforce Board, told WGHP. “Our goals are first for these events to reach those impacted by the United Furniture closing and those looking for a new career. And secondly, to highlight the services that are available throughout the week at local NCWorks centers in the region.”