Since losing his job in Seattle, Artagus Hicks has spent the past two years in Chattanooga looking for a full-time job.
The 36-year-old former UPS employee says he has had some part-time jobs and sees more opportunity lately in the job market.
“But it’s still hard to find work,” he said Thursday after applying for more jobs at the Tennessee Career Center. “The economy may be getting somewhat better, but jobs are still hard to come by.”
Nearly three years after the worst of the economic downturn ended, unemployment in May remained above 10 percent in 11 of the 18 counties in the region, according to figures released Thursday. The May jobless figures for Tennessee and Georgia showed an equal number of area counties reporting increases in unemployment as the number reporting declines.
Overall in the six-county Chattanooga metropolitan area, the jobless rate in May was unchanged at 8.4 percent. But in neighboring metro Cleveland, the jobless rate edged up by 0.1 percent to 9.5 percent and in metro Dalton the unemployment rate rose by 0.1 percent to 11.1 percent.
Nationwide, the jobless rate rose 0.1 percent to 9.1 percent.
“We seem to be moving sideways on employment and unfortunately the jobless rate in Georgia is probably going to remain at elevated levels through at least next year,” said Jeff Humphreys, director of the Selig Center at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business. “This is a very slow economic recovery and it’s particularly slow in healing for the labor market.”
Nonetheless, Chattanooga’s job growth is outpacing the U.S. average, however.
Over the past year, employment in metropolitan Chattanooga grew by a healthy 3.9 percent, adding 9,020 jobs in the six-county area, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. In metro Cleveland, Tenn., employment grew by 3.6 percent, adding 1,790 jobs.
In metro Dalton, the addition of 653 jobs in the past year represented a 1.1 percent gain in employment. Among the 14 metro areas in Georgia, Dalton continued to have to highest jobless rate last month.
Nationwide, the U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday that the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week rose by the most in a month, rising to a seasonally adjusted 429,000.