Chattanooga jobless rate falls in August but outpaces Tennessee

Chattanooga jobless rate falls in August but outpaces Tennessee

September 28th, 2012 by Mike Pare and Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

August unemployment

* Catoosa County, 7.3 percent, up 0.1 percent

* Sequatchie County, 7.5 percent, down 1 percent

* Hamilton County, 7.7 percent, down 0.7 percent

* Walker County, 8.1 percent, up 0.2 percent

* Bradley County, 8.5 percent, down 0.4 percent

* Dade County, 8.6 percent, up 0.3 percent

* Marion County, 9.1 percent, down 0.7 percent

* Polk County, 9.5 percent, down 0.4 percent

* McMinn County, 9.6 percent, down 0.4 percent

* Grundy County, 9.8 percent, down 1.7 percent

* Rhea County, 10.6 percent, down 1.1 percent

* Bledsoe County, 10.6 percent, down 0.8 percent

* Meigs County, 10.9 percent, down 0.7 percent

* Whitfield County, 11.4 percent, down 0.6 percent

Employment grew in Chattanooga at nearly twice the pace of the rest of Tennessee during the past year, cutting the local jobless rate by a half percent in August to fall below the U.S. rate.

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development reported Thursday that the 6-county metropolitan Chattanooga area added 2,620 jobs over the past 12 months. The 7.8 percent unemployment rate in metro Chattanooga in August was 0.4 percent below the comparable U.S. rate and 0.9 percent below the comparable Tennessee rate.

Chattanooga's growth trailed only Knoxville among Tennessee's metro areas. But Tennessee's overall job growth in the past year has been at only a meager 0.6 percent growth rate.

"Employment is growing very slowly, not enough to do much to bring down the jobless rate," said David Penn, director of the Business and Economic Research Center at Middle Tennessee State University.

Among the 14 counties in the Chattanooga region of Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia, the jobless rate fell last month in 11 counties and rose in only three. But 10 of the 14 area counties had jobless rate above the national average and four still have double-digit unemployment rates.

Ernest Lee Jones of Chattanooga is among the 20,620 unemployed workers in metro Chattanooga who are still searching for a job.

"I'm looking for more than the holidays," he said while applying for a job at the Tennessee Career Center. "I'm looking for something more permanent."

Brandon McDowell of Trenton mountain in Alabama said he already has a job for a Volkswagen supplier, but he's looking to move into the higher-paying construction industry.

He said he was at the Tennessee Career Center in Chattanooga this week taking a test to help him quality as an iron worker on a job site.

Seasonal hiring should add several thousand area jobs during the holiday ahead at area retail stores and distribution facilities like Amazon and UPS.

But Penn warned that the so-called "fiscal cliff" facing Congress in January if no budget compromise is reached could push up taxes, cut government programs "and push us back into recession."