HIGH POINT — Some parts of the city have experienced unemployment rates as high as 24% during the coronavirus pandemic.
That’s according to the leader of the government agency charged with helping unemployed residents access services like referrals to jobs and resume assistance.
“Parts of our county have been ravaged by the pandemic,” said Chris Rivera, executive director of Guilford Works. “Our economy is slowly recovering, but it’s not recovering at the rate I’m comfortable with.”
Rivera briefed the City Council on Monday on the pandemic’s impact on the city’s job market and his agency’s response.
The citywide unemployment rate has been around 7% since October after peaking at 16.3% in April 2020.
But high-poverty areas like the East Martin Luther King Jr. Drive corridor and parts of south High Point saw unemployment rates of 18% to 24% at the height of the pandemic last year.
“Seventy percent of the individuals impacted from this pandemic are coming from Black and brown communities, if we can just be very direct about that,” Rivera said.
Guilford Works served 8,400 High Point residents over the past year. About 60% of them have a high school diploma as their highest degree earned, which is an indication that the heaviest effect of the crisis has been on low-wage workers, he said.
Unemployment claims in High Point declined from 8,740 in September to 7,158 in February, but the number of residents who continue to collect benefits is still twice what it was at the start of the pandemic.
Rivera said he and his staff are working on new ways to target services to areas that are experiencing high unemployment.
A new “mobile career center” that’s designed to bring services directly to hard-hit communities should begin operations this month, he said.
Guilford Works is also negotiating a renewal of its lease with the city for its career center facility at 607 Idol St.
The city bought and renovated the building in 2010, and Rivera said Guilford Works will fund an upcoming remodel of the interior of the facility to add customer-service areas for meeting and training space.