Chattanooga area jobless tally falls; still above U.S. rate

Chattanooga area jobless tally falls; still above U.S. rate

October 19th, 2012 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

September Numbers

* Nation: 7.8 percent, down from 8.1 percent in August

* Tennessee: 8.3 percent, down from 8.5 percent

* Georgia: 9 percent, down from 9.2 percent

Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development

Fewer workers in Tennessee and Georgia seeking jobless benefits last month helped nudge the unemployment rate down in both states.

But Tennessee's 8.3 percent jobless rate and Georgia's 9 percent unemployment mark in September remained above the national jobless rate of 7.8 percent.

"The economy is improving and there have been recent signs in housing and consumer confidence that things are getting better," said David Penn, director of the Business and Economic Research Center at Middle Tennessee State University. "But I don't expect much change in the overall jobless rate, and in January all bets are off."

Unless Congress acts before the end of the year, payroll taxes will go up, jobless benefits will go down and most discretionary federal spending will be cut in January. The so-called fiscal cliff was created by Congressional negotiators last year to spur a budget agreement, but the looming fiscal trigger is already beginning to discourage worried employers from hiring more workers, Penn said.

"Certainly, things have slowed down and I think the fiscal cliff is adding to uncertainty," he said.

Nonetheless, Tennessee employers added 3,300 jobs during September and boosted the number of Tennesseans on the job by 20,400 over the past 12 months, the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development reported Thursday.

In Georgia, employment dipped by 400 jobs during September. But Georgia's overall employment was still up by 61,800 jobs over the past year.

"The unemployment rate dropped in September because Georgia had the fewest new claims for unemployment insurance benefits in five years, since before the start of the Great Recession," Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said in a statement.

Georgia has been hard hit by the housing slump, which slowed construction in the previously booming suburbs around Atlanta and crippled demand for carpet and forestry products made in the state.

In Dalton, the self-proclaimed carpet capital of the world, employers shed 2,900 jobs in the past year, including 200 jobs in September, according to the Georgia Department of Labor. Dalton had the biggest job loss of any of Georgia's 14 metropolitan areas in the past year.