North Carolina's economy continues to suffer from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the state remains in Phase Two of Governor Roy Cooper's three phase plan for reopening and the number of new cases of the disease, the number of hospitalizations, and the percentage of positive tests compared to all tests remain at unacceptable highs, some businesses that can legally reopen under the governor's order are still closed or have closed again because of cases of the virus.
While the County news release didn't say so, we understand that the closing of the Lincoln County Courthouse for two days for cleaning was related to a case of the disease. The Dollar General store in High Shoals closed for the same reason. So did the McDonald's in Cherryville. These are just a few of the locations where positive cases of COVID-19 have prompted the need for extraordinary cleaning and testing of other workers for the virus.
The state released the May figures for county-by-county unemployment last week. While Lincoln and Catawba County both saw decreases, Gaston and Cleveland County had increased unemployment claims.
Unemployment rates (not seasonally adjusted) increased in 65 of North Carolina’s 100 counties in May, decreased in 34, and remained unchanged in one. Swain County had the highest unemployment rate at 19.7 percent, while Bertie and Chowan Counties each had the lowest at 8.1 percent.
Lincoln County's rate fell slightly--from 12.7% in April to 12.5% in May. Catawba County improved from 18.7% in April to 16% in May. Gaston County's rate increased from 13.7% in April to 14.2% in May. Cleveland County saw an increase from 12.6% in April to 12.7% in May.
The May statewide rate was 12.7%. North Carolina's rate was 31st most in the nation. The lowest unemployment rate was 5.2% in Nebraska, followed by Utah with 8.5% and Wyoming with 8.8%. 18 states had an unemployment rate of less than 10%, while three had rates in excess of 20%--Michigan, Hawaii and Nevada.
Nationally, the unemployment rate decreased in early June, but that was before the COVID-19 pandemic got much worse, especially in the South and West. While more states allowed businesses to reopen, increased cases of the disease and other factors are thought to have created a sharp increase over the last few weeks.