Jobless rate jumps above 10 percent in Dalton, rural areas

Jobless rate jumps above 10 percent in Dalton, rural areas

August 22nd, 2014 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

Photo by Laura McNutt/Times Free Press.

Unemployment rose last month across the Chattanooga region, pushing the July jobless rate in metropolitan Dalton and a half-dozen area counties back into the double digits for the first time in a year.

The Georgia Department of Labor said Thursday that Dalton's nonseasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose 1.1 percent during July to 10.4 percent -- the highest jobless level in metro Dalton since July 2013.

Unemployment rose to 10 percent or more last month in Whitfield, Murray and Chattooga counties in Northwest Georgia and in Rhea, Bledsoe and Van Buren counties in Southeast Tennessee.

"In the whole first half of this year, the overall economy and building activity that the floorcovering industry depends upon has been softer than we expected or what we hoped for at this point in the recovery," said Brian Anderson, president of the Dalton Chamber of Commerce. "We're hoping for more activity and there should be more plant expansions in the back half of this year, but 2014 is not going to be as robust as what a lot of people projected."

Dalton is the center of the carpet and floorcovering industry and was one of the hardest hit metropolitan areas during the housing slump.

Last month, initial claims for jobless benefits in metro Dalton more than doubled from 772 in June to 1,629 in July due to temporary layoffs. Despite the monthly jump, however, initial claims for unemployment insurance in Dalton were still down by nearly 29 percent from the 2,284 new claims filed in July 2013.

Over the past year, Dalton employment still grew by 500 jobs. But Dalton's 0.8 percent rate of job gains over the past year was less than half the statewide growth pace of 2.1 percent in all of Georgia.

Metropolitan Dalton, which includes Whitfield and Murray counties in northwest Georgia, had the highest jobless rate last month among the 14 metro areas in Georgia.

In the six-county Chattanooga metropolitan area, unemployment rose last month by six tenths of a percent to 7.7 percent -- the highest rate since last October. Chattanooga shed 1,370 jobs last month, according to the household survey compiled by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Chattanooga's jobless rate was higher in July than the 6.4 percent rate in metro Nashville or the 6.7 percent rate in metro Knoxville. But Chattanooga's rate was still below the 8.9 percent rate in metro Memphis.

In metropolitan Cleveland, unemployment rose last month by four-tenths of a percent to 7.5 percent.

Across the region, unemployment was lowest in Catoosa County at 6.7 percent and highest in Van Buren county at 11.1 percent.

Statewide, the nonseasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose by 0.4 percent last month to 7.8 percent in Tennessee and increased by 0.5 percent to 8.3 percent in Georgia. Georgia had the second highest unemployment rate in the country in July, behind only Mississippi.

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