published Friday, July 29th, 2011

Jobless rate high despite added posts

Two years after the recession officially ended, unemployment crept up again last month to remain at double-digit levels among more than two-thirds of the counties surrounding Chattanooga.

Seasonal cuts in school jobs such as bus drivers and janitors and the entry of more workers into the labor market from high school and college graduations combined to push up the share of unemployed in June throughout the region.

“It seems like the economy is getting better, but it’s been very frustrating trying to find a job,” said Darin Taylor, a 36-year-old pastor who lost his job at an Alabama auto plant in November 2008 and hasn’t had steady work since. “I do a lot of mowing yards and cleaning gutters, but it’s tough.”

For older workers like Allen Gordon, a 57-year-old floor technician, finding another job has been “very tough.”

“I have job applications in all over,” Gordon said outside the Tennessee Career Center Thursday.

Over the past year, employment in metropolitan Chattanooga grew by nearly 8,000 jobs, or by more 3.3 percent since June 2010. But in neighboring metro Cleveland to the east only 680 more jobs were added over the past year and in metro Dalton employment is up a scant 32 jobs in the past year.

With nearly one of every eight workers out of a job in Dalton, metro Dalton continued to have the highest jobless rate among Georgia’s 14 metropolitan areas.

“Georgia was harder hit by this recession than most states and areas dependent upon housing (like the Carpet Capital in Dalton) have suffered the most,” said Jeffrey Humphreys, the economic director of forecasting at the University of Georgia.

But Humphreys said Georgia does appear to be on pace to add 40,000 jobs statewide in 2011. Over the past year, Georgia employment grew by 18,975 jobs, according to Georgia Labor Department figures released Thursday.

“It’s a slower recovery coming out of a very severe downturn, but we don’t anticipate another recession and we should continue to see modest job growth,” Humphreys said.

Cutbacks in government jobs due to lagging tax revenues cut government employment in Tennessee by 11,000 jobs over the past year and Humphreys expects more public sector jobs cuts over the next two years.

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