Unemployment fell last month to the lowest level in more than three years across Tennessee and Georgia, although the 0.9 percent annual growth in jobs in both states still was well below the usual pace of previous economic recoveries.
The jobless rate in March fell to 7.9 percent in Tennessee, the lowest since November 2008, while unemployment last month declined to 9 percent in Georgia, the lowest since February 2009.
"The decline in unemployment is encouraging and we project it will gradually decline further during 2012," University of Tennessee Economist Matt Murray said. "But the pace of employment gains doesn't indicate a strong recovery."
Indeed, the number of Tennesseans on the job in March actually declined by 7,600, or 0.3 percent, compared with February's employment average. The jobless rate fell last month because the number of Tennesseans looking for work also shrank during March.
Tennessee Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said the drop in the unemployment rate from 8 percent in February to 7.9 percent in March "is attributable to losses in both employment and unemployment, but the number of unemployed declined at a faster rate, resulting in the net decrease in the state rate."
The Georgia Department of Labor said Peach State employers added 13,900 jobs last month and 35,600 jobs over the past year, lowering the state's unemployment rate from 9.8 percent in March 2011 to 9 percent last month.
Georgia's jobless rate has declined for eight straight months, but unemployment in Georgia still exceeds the comparable U.S. jobless rate of 8.2 percent last month.
"Georgia's unemployment rate continues to trend downward and it's important to recognize that it's done so as the number of people in the labor force steadily increased," Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said in a statement Thursday. "This indicates a growing optimism among unemployed workers that they will be able to land a job."
Both states reported strong gains over the past year in jobs in manufacturing and business services. In the construction sector, Tennessee gained jobs in the past year while Georgia reported more building industry job losses over the past 12 months.