Chattanooga adds 7,700 jobs in three years but growth pace trails national average

Chattanooga adds 7,700 jobs in three years but growth pace trails national average

September 8th, 2013 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

A U.S. Xpress driver demonstrates an electronic tracking device in his truck in this file photo. The Chattanooga area is showing job growth as the economy picks up, but momentum is slow.

Photo by Staff File Photo/Times Free Press.

The Chattanooga area has added 7,700 jobs since the Great Recession ended in 2010, but the region's job growth has still trailed the U.S. as a whole since 2010.

For all its success in recruiting Volkswagen, Amazon and Alstom Power to build new factories and distribution centers to Chattanooga during the recession, employment in the Chattanooga area has grown a modest 3 percent since the downturn ended three years ago, trailing the 4 percent national growth pace in the same period.

Employment gains coming out of the worst economic downturn in a half century have varied widely across industries, according to a new study of job growth conducted for the web site CareerBuilder.

Jobs have rebounded strongly in Chattanooga in health care, trucking and fabric mills. But the Chattanooga region shed jobs in its key insurance and appliance manufacturing industries during the past three years while the highest paying major sector - federal civilian employment - rose only 1 percent.

"Many of the job gains were seen in manufacturing, restaurants, temporary help services, and art and entertainment," said Jennifer Grasz, a spokeswoman for CareerBuilder. "This stands in contrast to the period form 2001-2009, when the economy declined by 5 percent shedding some 11,500 jobs."

Metro Chattanooga, like most of the 100 top metro areas analyzed by CareerBuilder, has yet to regain all of the jobs it lost duirng the recession. The study for CareerBuilder conducted by Eocnomic Modeling Specialists International found that manufacturing employment in the 6-county Chattanooga area dropped by 32 percent in the eight years prior to the recession.

But manufacturing is rebounding as factories gear up to meet pent-up demand for many goods, and currency and energy price changes make it more economical for many manufacturers to bring production back to the U.S.

Chattanooga's job rebound has been slower than in many cities during the past three years because of its relatively better performance during the recession than in most markets and the decline in some businesses during the past year. Volkswagen and Alstom both added jobs during the recession but cut their staffs earlier this year. The Tennessee Valley Authority and energy equipment makes like Alstom and Westinghouse have each trimmed their local staffs along with the decline in energy prices and demand in the past year.

Other states producing natural gas and oil supplies buoyed by new fracking technologies have enjoyed bigger job gains. CareerBuilder said cities with higher concentrations of computer companies and durable manufacturers have generally fared the best since 2010.

The biggest job gainers since 2010 have ranged from Salt Lake City, which has grown along with its technology and distribution businesses; Grand Rapids, Mich., boosted by its furniture and other manufacturing industries rebounding from the recession, and silicon valley region arond San Jose, Calif.

"These are metros with a strong concentration of computer systems design, software publishing and data processing and hosting firms," CareerBuilder CEO Matt Ferguson said. "These are metros benefiting from the resurgence in U.S. manufacturing, and the nation's need to find new energy sources and expand healthcare services."

The study found the average job in Chattanooga in 2013 pays $48,724 in the key driver industries in the region. By comparison, the average job in driver industries pays $59,932 in Atlanta, $55,961 in Nashville and $49,667 in Knoxville.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340