Unemployment rate rises in Tennessee

Unemployment rate rises in Tennessee

June 15th, 2012 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

Maria Wilt, center, talks to a recruiter at a job fair expo June 13 in Anaheim, Calif.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

May unemployment

Tennessee - 7.9 percent, up from 7.7 percent in April

Georgia - 8.9 percent, unchanged from April

U.S. average - 8.2 percent, up from 8.1 percent in April

With more unemployed people re-entering the labor market last month, the jobless rate in May edged higher in Tennessee and was unchanged in Georgia, according to employment figures released Thursday.

Unemployment in Tennessee during May rose by two-tenths of a percent from April's revised level to 7.9 percent, reversing a 22-month-long decline in the state's jobless rate. In Georgia, the state jobless rate was unchanged at 8.9 percent, the first time in 10 months that the jobless rate has failed to decline.

"We continue to see steady, but sluggish growth in employment so we're likely to see unemployment rates around these levels for some time," said Dr. Bill Fox, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee. "Jobs are growing, especially in durable manufacturing in Tennessee. But so are the number of people in the workforce."

Over the past year, Tennessee added 39,100 jobs, or 1.5 percent, including 7,700 jobs in manufacturing and 6,000 jobs in construction. But the Volunteer State suffered an unexpected decline of 1,700 jobs from April to May primarily because of fewer jobs in the hospitality and financial industries.

"There's not a day goes by that there is not some business or plant closing in Tennessee," said Gary Moore, president of the Tennessee AFL-CIO. "But things do seem to be slowly turning around and people are feeling a little bit more optimistic that there will be work available."

In Georgia, employment grew in the past year by 34,000 jobs, or 0.9 percent.

"Although the unemployment rate held steady, we now have the fewest jobless workers receiving unemployment insurance benefits since the start of the recession in 2007, and the numbers of new layoffs and long-term unemployed are down," Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said in his monthly jobs report.

Despite the statewide gain in jobs over the past 12 months, metro Dalton continued to shed jobs. The number of Dalton workers on the job last month was down by 5,200 persons, or 7.8 percent, from May 2011.

Dalton, the self-described carpet capital of the world, continues to suffer from the housing slump and has had the highest jobless rate of any of Georgia's 14 metropolitan areas for the past four years.