published Friday, September 20th, 2013

Tennessee, Georgia unemployment steady amid slower growth

Job growth has slowed this year from last year's pace and remains above the U.S. average across Tennessee and Georgia.

But unemployment figures released Thursday showed that the jobless rate still edged lower last month in Georgia and remained unchanged in Tennessee.

"By all measures, the economy is growing, but not as fast this year," University of Tennessee Economist Matt Murray said. "We expect unemployment to go down from here, but there have been some headwinds from the budget sequestration, the increase in payroll taxes and the uncertain fiscal outlook."

In a new forecast released Thursday, UT's Center for Business and Economic Research projects that unemployment across the Volunteer State will average 8.2 percent this year and drop to 7.6 percent next year. Those rates will still be above the projected U.S. jobless rate by more than a half percent, however.

"Tennessee continues to see much stronger growth in manufacturing that the nation," Murray said. "On the downside, the state's unemployment rate is now well above its national counterpart."

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development reported Thursday that unemployment in Tennessee was unchanged during August at 8.5 percent -- the third consecutive month of no rate change.

In Georgia, after three moths of increases, the jobless rate dipped by a tenth of a percent to 8.7 percent.

Both of those state rates were well above the comparable U.S. jobless rate in August of 7.3 percent.

"The primary reason the rate dropped is that we had a significant reduction in layoffs, in fact, the fewest since September 2007," Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said. "Also, we had a small increase in the number of jobs."

In Georgia, the number of long-term unemployed out of work for six months or longer was at the lowest level in nearly four years. But August employment gains in government of 10,700 jobs due to the restart of school were offset by a net loss of 7,700 private sector jobs in the Peach State.

"The job gains that we normally would have in August, especially in the private sector, occurred in June and July, two months in which we normally lose thousands of jobs," Butler said. "As far as the overall number of jobs, we are much better off this August than last."

Georgia gained 82,300 jobs, or 2.1 percent, since August 2012.

In Tennessee, total employment last month was up by 32,200 jobs, or 2.2 percent from the year-ago period.

"While growth is subdued due to reduced federal government spending and a global slowdown, the expansion has shown a much-welcomed resilience," Murray said. "Nonresidential fixed investment, residential fixed investment and exports will be the primary drivers of economic growth next year, while federal and state government spending will be the primary drags on growth.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfree or at 757-6340

about Dave Flessner...

Dave Flessner is the business editor for the Times Free Press. A journalist for 35 years, Dave has been business editor and projects editor for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, city editor for The Chattanooga Times, business and county reporter for the Chattanooga Times, correspondent for the Lansing State Journal and Ingham County News in Michigan, staff writer for the Hastings Daily Tribune in Nebraska, and news director for WCBN-FM in Michigan. Dave, a native ...

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