Chattanooga jobless rate remains below U.S., state averages

Chattanooga jobless rate remains below U.S., state averages

November 22nd, 2012 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region
Illustration by Laura McNutt /Times Free Press.

The Chattanooga area added more jobs in the past year than all of the rest of Tennessee.

The state Department of Labor and Workforce Development on Wednesday reported that the jobless rate in the six-county Chattanooga area remained at a four-year low during October at 7.1 percent. Chattanooga's unemployment rate was below both the comparable 8.2 percent for all of Tennessee and the 7.9 percent rate for the United States last month.

In the 12 months ended in October, employers in metropolitan Chattanooga added 2,280 jobs, keeping the jobless rate at the lowest level since November 2008.

Statewide, Tennessee employers added only 1,600 jobs over the past year, leaving the state's jobless rate slightly above the national average.

"We expect unemployment rates to come down slowly because we're in a period of significant structural unemployment and it takes a long time to solve that kind of unemployment," said Dr. Bill Fox, director of economic forecasting at the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee.

Despite gains in construction and automotive and other durable manufacturing employment at employers like Volkswagen, Nissan and General Motors, government and nondurable manufacturing employment has declined in the past year in most of Tennessee, Fox said.

Retail employment, which usually rises as the economy rebounds, also has unexpectedly declined in the past year.

"It may be that the growth in e-commerce means fewer jobs," Fox said. "Firms like Amazon hire a lot fewer workers per million dollars of sales than firms like Walmart."

Chattanooga and Charleston, Tenn., have benefited, however, by the growth of Amazon. The world's biggest Internet retailer is adding more than 3,000 jobs in Hamilton and Bradley counties.

Fox said he worries that if Congress doesn't reach a budget compromise to avoid scheduled tax increases and budget cuts in January, "there will be a very dramatic and immediate impact" on the economy.