published Friday, June 27th, 2014

Jobless rates rise across Chattanooga area as students, grads seek jobs

The unemployment rate rose across Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia last month from students and graduates entering the job market.

Despite monthly gains in the number of workers on the job, the jobless rate rose in all but two of the 18 counties in the Chattanooga region during May, according to figures released Thursday by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development and the Georgia Department of Labor.

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler blamed the rise in unemployment on the seasonal increase in the number of people seeking employment as schools got out for the summer and new high school and college graduates entered the labor market. Those increases more than offset the gains in employment during May.

Unemployment remained the lowest in the region in the North Georgia bedroom counties of metropolitan Chattanooga -- Catoosa, Dade and Walker -- even though the jobless rate rose in each of those counties.

The jobless rate remained highest in the rural counties of Northwest Georgia -- Murray and Chattooga. Despite the increases in jobless rates in most counties, unemployment remained below 10 percent in all area counties for only the second month in five years.

In the six-county Chattanooga metropolitan area, unemployment rose in May by six-tenths of a percentage point to 6.2 percent. Unemployment was even lower in metro Cleveland last month at 5.9 percent, up by a half percent from the previous month.

Metropolitan Dalton, one of the hardest hit metro areas during the recession, showed a six-tenths of a percent rise in unemployment last month. Dalton added 400 jobs last month, but seasonal gains in the labor force from students and graduates entering the job market overwhelmed those employment gains, swelling the labor force by 677 workers.

Dalton's 8.8 percent rate last month was still down sharply from the 10.3 percent rate in May 2013. Dalton's biggest carpet manufacturers -- Beaulieu, Mohawk and Shaw -- were taking applications Thursday at the Dalton Career Center to help staff several thousand jobs the carpet industry is adding this year as the floorcovering industry recovers.

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