Jobless rates fall in 2013, but so does local employment

Jobless rates fall in 2013, but so does local employment

January 31st, 2014 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region
Illustration by Laura McNutt /Times Free Press.

The Chattanooga area ended last year with unemployment 0.5 percent below a year earlier, but the drop was due to fewer people in the workforce, not more people on the job.

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development reported Thursday that the unemployment rate in the 6-county Chattanooga area was 6.8 percent in December, unchanged from November and down from the 7.3 percent jobless rate in December 2012.

Chattanooga's jobless rate was 0.5 percent below the rest of Tennessee but 0.2 percent above the U.S. rate last month.

The decline in unemployment through 2013 in Chattanooga was due to a drop of 10,100 persons in the workforce, state figures show. Employment from December 2012 to December 2013 dropped in metro Chattanooga by 8,060 jobs, but the number of persons unemployed also fell by 2,020 persons.

Such figures may be adjusted later when the employment numbers are calibrated for another year. The unexpected decline in the size of the workforce has puzzled economists, said University of Tennessee Economist Bill Fox, the director of the Center for Business and Economic Research.

Across the Chattanooga region, government figures released Thursday show unemployment fell in the past year in metropolitan Cleveland from 7 percent to 6.6 percent and in metropolitan Dalton from 11 percent to 9.5 percent.

The Georgia Department of Labor reported that the lowest unemployment rate in the region during December was in Catoosa County where unemployment fell to only 4.6 percent, unchanged from the previous month but down from 6 percent a year ago.

The jobless rate was highest in the region last month in Rhea County, the only area county where unemployment was in the double digits. Rhea County's 10.1 percent jobless rate in December was still the lowest rate for that county in 2013, however.