Jobless rate falls to lowest in 4 years

Jobless rate falls to lowest in 4 years

December 21st, 2012 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

Unemployment tile

Unemployment tile

Photo by WRCB-TV Channel 3 /Times Free Press.

Unemployment fell last month to a 4-year low across Tennessee and Georgia as the job market continued to rebound from its recession lows of two years ago.

In Tennessee, the jobless rate in November plunged by six-tenths of a percent to 7.6 percent -- the lowest rate since October 2008 -- as employment grew and the size of the state's workforce shrunk slightly.

In Georgia, unemployment dipped by two-tenths of a percent last month to 8.5 percent. Although still above the comparable U.S. jobless rate of 7.7 percent last month, Georgia's workforce and employment grew to the highest levels since early 2009.

"November showed strong employment growth, especially in the key areas of the economy that sustain growth such as durable manufacturing and retail trade," said Dr. William Fox, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee. "We continue to see a steady, if not spectacular, recovery."

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development said Thursday that the state's jobless rate dropped from 8.7 percent in November 2011 to 7.6 percent last month.

The decline in unemployment in Tennessee was steeper than the drop nationwide and left Tennessee's jobless rate one tenth of a percent below the U.S. jobless rate in November.

The gains in Tennessee last month came despite a drop in employment in government, hospitality and health care jobs.

In Georgia, 9,600 jobs were added last month, mostly in trade, transportation, warehousing and education.

"This is the lowest state unemployment rate in nearly four years since it was 8.5 percent in January 2009," Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said in a statement. "Once again, the rate dropped because of continued job growth and fewer new layoffs."

Georgia's jobless rate fell from 9.5 percent a year ago.

Al Clark, general manager for Management Recruiters of Chattanooga, said hiring activity was up in the three months prior to December.

"Up until this month, it has been very positive, which surprised us some with all of the questions over the election," he said.

"We're seeing a very typical, end-of-the-year slowdown this month, and I think it's exaggerated some by the uncertainty over the fiscal cliff, and what Congress may end up doing," Clark said.