Chattanooga's jobless rate falls to 3-year low

Chattanooga's jobless rate falls to 3-year low

November 24th, 2011 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

Buoyed by an influx of hiring at Amazon's new distribution centers in Hamilton and Bradley counties, unemployment in metropolitan Chattanooga fell last month to the lowest level in nearly three years.

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development said the six-county area added 2,100 jobs during October, cutting the monthly jobless rate below 8 percent for the first time since the end of 2008.

Unemployment in metro Chattanooga fell by eight-tenths of a percent down to 7.9 percent, the lowest since December 2008. Over the past year, employment in metro Chattanooga has grown by more than 1.7 percent, or nearly double the U.S. job growth in the same period.

"The number of persons in the workforce nationally is staying fairly stable or even declining. But in Tennessee, it is growing rather rapidly," said William Fox, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee. "When you are creating more jobs like what is happening in Chattanooga, that tends to draw more people who are seeking jobs and encourages many of those who have been out of work to get back in the workforce."

Darrius Robinson, a 23-year-old Chattanoogan who has been out of work for the past six months, was just hired this week to start working at Amazon next week.

"I've been needing a job for a long time, and I'm excited that I finally got one," he said after filling out papers to begin his job as a packer for the Internet retailer.

Adam Garcia also will soon begin working as a security guard at Amazon for Allied Barton.

"I got out of the Marine Corps last year and I'm going to school and working two jobs to become a police officer," he said. "I'm pretty busy, but glad to have another job."

Amazon is hiring up to 4,500 temporary and full-time employees for the Christmas holiday rush at its new distributions centers in Chattanooga and near Charleston, Tenn.

Those hirings helped cut Hamilton County's jobless rate nearly 2 percent below the statewide rate across Tennessee in October.

But the state estimates there still are 20,960 people in the metro area unable to find work.

"It's still a tough job market, but I've got a few interviews so I'm more hopeful now," said Wayne Pritchett, a 71-year-old former warehouse manager who has been without a full-time job for two years. "People say they want to hire me, but when they see when I was born, they just tell me they will call me back later - and they never do."