published Friday, March 18th, 2011

Despite gains, unemployment above U.S. norm in region

Employers added more than 35,000 jobs across Tennessee and Georgia last month, but the jobless rates in both states remained above the national average.

An influx of workers into the labor market pushed up unemployment in Tennessee last month even though the state added 10,000 jobs during February. The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development reported Thursday that Tennessee’s jobless rate during February rose by two-tenths of a percent to 9.6 percent, primarily due to the addition of 15,400 workers joining the labor market and looking for jobs.

Tennessee Labor Commissioner Karla Davis said 35,000 jobs have been added in Tennessee since February 2010 “across a diverse range of industries.

“The year-over-year growth rate of 1.4 percent shows Tennessee’s employers are beginning to regain jobs lost during the recession,” Davis said.

In Georgia, the jobless rate dipped by a tenth of a percent last month. But the 10.2 percent unemployment rate in February in Georgia still was well above the U.S. average of 8.9 percent.

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said the addition of 25,100 jobs in February “gives me reason for cautious optimism.

“I’m encouraged that we continue to see a reduction in the number of new layoffs,” Butler said. “However, the growing number of long-term unemployed is troubling.”

Last month, Georgia counted 263,200 people who had been unemployed more for than six months. That was up by nearly 38 percent from the same period a year ago.

Such long-term unemployed now account for a record-high 55.1 percent of the 478,104 jobless workers in Georgia.

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