published Friday, August 15th, 2014

Unemployment up last month in Tennessee and Georgia

July joblessness

• Tennessee, 7.1 percent, up from 6.6 percent in June

• Georgia, 7.8 percent, up from 7.4 percent in June

• U.S. average, 6.2 percent, up from 6.1 percent in June

Sources: Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Georgia Department of Labor

Unemployment rose again last month across Tennessee and Georgia as both states lost jobs during the summer.

Despite employment gains nationwide, Tennessee and Georgia lost a combined 16,100 jobs during July. Both states on Thursday reported above-average unemployment for the month.

Jeff Humphreys, director of the Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia and one of the state's top economic forecasters, said the monthly dip in employment does not signal a reversal of the economic growth seen in Tennessee and Georgia since the recession ended three nearly four years ago.

"We still expect to see consistent employment gains over time and even slightly faster growth next year than what we are seeing this year," he said Thursday. "We expect to see about 2 percent employment growth this year and 2.3 percent next year. That's steady, but it's still low by historic standards coming out of a recession."

In Tennessee, unemployment jumped five-tenths of a percentage point during July to 7.1 percent -- the highest seasonally adjusted rate since January. The jobless rate increased by four-tenths of a percentage point in Georgia last month to 7.8 percent -- the highest rate since October.

Nationwide, unemployment rose a tenth of a percent in July to 6.2 percent.

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler blamed seasonal factors for the increased unemployment rate in July. Government jobs, which shrink when school is out in the summer, fell last month by 3,800 jobs in Georgia and by 4,900 jobs in Tennessee.

"The July rate increase is primarily due to temporary seasonal layoffs in local government and manufacturing," he said. "Most of those individuals have already gone back to work."

The rising and above-average unemployment rates in Tennessee and Georgia may have discouraged some workers from trying to get a job. For the first time this year, Georgia's labor force declined during July. Georgia's workforce dropped by 4,824 workers in July.

In Tennessee, the workforce dropped by 2,300 workers in July.

"The positive news is that Georgia's private sector employers created 8,200 jobs in July, with the growth coming in several industries," Butler said. "And, the over-the-year growth continues to be strong, as we had 83,300 more jobs than in July of 2013. Georgia continues to be one of the leading states for job creation."

Private sector employment is still growing. But Humphreys said fiscal constraints, especially at the federal and local levels, is likely to continue to limit employment growth.

In Tennessee, employment grew in July in construction, trade and utilities and health care. But employment declined in manufacturing, hospitality, business services and government.

The average hourly rate for Tennessee workers in manufacturing rose by a penny an hour last month to $17.64. But the average workweek among Tennessee factory workers fell during the month by an hour to 41 hours. As a result, average weekly earnings for manufacturing workers in the state were down by $17.22 from June to July.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com 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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