THE 2-1-1

At the beginning of the year, unemployment rates were at 3.5 percent and Hispanic and African American unemployment was at historically low levels.

In the last seven weeks, more than 33 million people have gone on unemployment. Talk of prosperity is replaced by discussion about the difference between a recession (two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth) and a depression (three years or a 10% or more fall in GPD).

Dr. Adam Jones, UNCW’s regional economist, said the local economy is in a recession on Wilmington Business Journal’s April 16 Biztalk.

“I don’t think we’re ever going to make it back up,” he told the Wilmington Business Journal. “I can put off buying a helmet and buy it later. I can’t put off the burrito I was going to buy on a Friday night until three months from now. I’m not going to eat four burritos to catch up. Which means the sales tax revenues that are with that are just gone.”

Hiring is down. Wages are down.

Only jobless claims are on the rise.

A look at North Carolina Unemployment Insurance claims filed in March 2020 paints a bleak picture. Statewide there were 339,885 claims – 282,947 were COVID-19 claims. This is how it breaks down by county (COVID-19 claims in parenthesis):
Brunswick: 4,257 (3,586)
Columbus: 879 (690)
New Hanover: 11,340 (9,646)
Onslow: 4,378 (3,636)
Pender: 1,623 (1,355)

The downturn is only going to exacerbate the chasm between our affluent and marginalized communities, according to a New York Times editorial.

“Our cities are broken because affluent Americans have been segregating themselves from the poor, and our best hope for building a fairer, stronger nation is to break down those barriers… But to realize the potential of cities, we need to change the harsh reality that the neighborhoods into which Americans are born delimit their prospects in life: their chances of graduating from high school, of earning a decent living, of surviving into old age… The isolation of the poor has broad consequences.”
Don’t for a second think this isn’t Wilmington. In fact, the concentration and isolation of the poor in the Port City was stark even before COVID-19.
Take a census tract on Wilmington’s Southside. The population is 43 percent Black and 52 percent White. Almost 50 percent of the residents and 88 percent of children in this tract are living in poverty. Compare it to a census tract south of Monkey Junction in southern New Hanover County that is 85 percent White and 6 percent Black but only 15 percent residents and 21 percent of children live under the poverty line.
In Wilmington, if you’re poor, you’re likely living on the margins, tucked away from the tourists who come here to spend their money. These concentrations of poor perpetuate the cycle. As we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is time to break the cycle and work to make sure when the recovery comes, it won’t miss the parts of our community that need it the most. --  Kevin Maurer

We’re sending out this newsletter in an effort to track the coronavirus impact on the Cape Fear Region. Cape Fear Collective (CFC) is using NC 2-1-1 - a service run by the United Way of North Carolina. It allows residents to get free, confidential information and referrals related to community services. Consider It a metaphorical flashlight, allowing us to see trouble spots.
This update covers March 16 through May 10 for New Hanover, Onslow, Brunswick, Columbus, and Pender Counties. The archive of past weeks can be found here.
If you have comments, questions or suggestions, send us an email at or look us up on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Here is Dr. Chris Prentice, a UNCW professor and data advisor to the Cape Fear Collective and Nick Pylypiw, director of data science for the Cape Fear Collective, with a breakdown of the data. This week, we decided to focus on two assistance categories which have exhibited sustained increase over the last few months.

Although the data offers a useful window into peoples’ needs, the sample size is relatively small from a statistical standpoint. So, we shouldn’t overreact to these insights or use them in isolation to make policy and management decisions.
Requests for housing assistance have increased steadily since January 2019. Driving much of this trend is the subcategory "Rent Assistance" which flattened slightly at the end of 2019 before beginning another steep incline before the COVID-19 outbreak, which seems to have added to this already growing area of need. 
Employment and income requests had declined overall throughout the first half of 2019, reaching near pre-Florence levels of stability. Hurricane Dorian may have had an impact on New Hanover and Brunswick, as both of those counties saw a slight increase in the months following the storm. All five counties saw a significant increase in employment and income requests at the start of the year -- a trend which was exacerbated by COVID-19.


Now that we've had a few weeks to analyze the data, we're hoping to use these insights to create a dialogue with our partner organizations throughout the community. By combining these insights, and the feedback from each of you, with the other data sources we are maintaining, we hope to continue to provide valuable insight back to the community.
CFC is working to establish a true snapshot of health, opportunity, and disparity in New Hanover County. We believe that data should be current, accurate, and accessible to every organization and citizen. To learn more about the Cape Fear Collective’s data and analytics work, click here.
If you have comments, questions, or suggestions then send us an email at or look us up on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.


UNCW’s Dr. Rachel Carroll, assistant professor of mathematics and statistics, and Dr. Mark Lammers, professor and director of UNCW’s Data Science Program, have developed two tools that track COVID-19 cases in the Cape Fear region.
Carroll created a spatial-temporal tool that maps COVID-19 in the United States, North Carolina and the Cape Fear Region. Lammers developed a visualization tool that tracks COVID-19 cases by county in North Carolina, Virginia and South Carolina. He wanted to do something more locally focused.
Both tools update daily using data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
Cape Fear Collective and the Wilmington Chamber partnered with RTI International to bring a comprehensive skills analysis to our six-county region. The survey data will provide current and regionally-specific information for policy makers in workforce, education and economic development.  As an employer, whether in a large corporation, small business, nonprofit organization or government agency, please take a few minutes to complete the survey today.
SHARE Cape Fear provides an online portal for nonprofit organizations, including faith-based groups and churches with 501(c)3 status, to build a profile, set up a wish list, and call for volunteers. Neighbors to the site are able to connect with those organizations and sign up to help either through monetary or goods donation or volunteering. Registration for SHARE Cape Fear is free. For more information, visit


Here is a collection of links with the latest information on COVID-19. This is a rolling list and we’ll update as needed. If you find a helpful link, please send it and we’ll include it on the list.
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