Tennessee and Georgia began the year with their lowest January jobless rates in five years, but unemployment still remains stubbornly high in both states three and a half years into an economic recovery.
The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development reported Thursday that unemployment in the Volunteer State edged up a tenth of a percent in January to 7.7 percent. Despite the monthly increase -- due primarily to seasonal cuts in retail and construction jobs -- Tennessee has still added 56,200 jobs over the past year. The Volunteer State has cut its jobless rate from 8.2 percent a year ago to the lowest January level since 2008.
"We continue to see slow, steady growth in employment, but the gain is not that much more than the growth in the labor force so unemployment is likely to stay at these historically elevated levels for some time," said Dr. Bill Fox, director of economic forecasting at the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee. "We expect Tennessee to do slightly better than the nation as a whole from continued migration of residents into the state and the strength of Tennessee's growing automotive industry."
January's jobless rate in Tennessee was slightly below the U.S. rate of 7.9 percent, which also was up a tenth of a percent from December.
In neighboring Georgia, unemployment remained higher than the U.S. rate as it has for the past four years. Georgia's jobless rate in January of 8.7 percent was unchanged form December but was down from 9.3 percent a year ago.
"The good news in this report is that we lost the fewest jobs for January since 1987," Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said. "And we start the year with 79,600 more jobs in January than we had in the same period a year ago."
Manufacturing declined in Georgia, but rose slightly in Tennessee during January.
From the peak levels reached in 2009, the jobless rate has dropped by nearly 2.5 percent in Tennessee and by nearly 2 percent in Georgia.
The National Bureau of Economic Research's business cycle dating committee says the Great Recession ended in June 2009. Since then, employment has grown at an annual pace in Tennessee and Georgia of just over 1 percent, or less than half the usual pace of job growth from previous post World War II recoveries.