Jobs in Tennessee and Georgia rise but not as fast as labor force

Jobs in Tennessee and Georgia rise but not as fast as labor force

June 20th, 2014 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

Unemployment in Tennessee and Georgia rose last month despite job gains in both states.

The jobless rate in Tennessee edged up by a tenth of a percentage point during May to 6.4 percent, rising above the nationwide average unemployment rate of 6.3 percent last month.

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development said Thursday that the Volunteer State added 6,700 jobs during May. But the labor force grew far faster with the addition of 39,000 people on the job or looking for work.

Similarly in Georgia, the jobless rate in May edged up three-tenths of a percentage point to 7.2 percent even though the state added 21,400 jobs last month. Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said the workforce in May swelled by students looking for summer jobs and high school and college graduates looking for full-time work.

"This is a seasonal rate increase that is typical for May," Butler said. "In fact, we haven't had a rate decrease in May since 1999. This time of year, we have new job seekers coming into the labor force, led primarily by college graduates looking for full-time work and students searching for summer jobs."

Unemployment was down significantly from a year ago when Georgia's unemployment rate was 8.4 percent. Over the past year, Georgia has added 80,200 jobs and ranked among the top 10 states for job growth, Butler said.

Despite the monthly increase in the May jobless rate, Tennessee also showed a marked decline in unemployment from a year ago, falling by 1.2 percentage points from May 2013. Over the past year, nonfarm employment increased across Tennessee by 56,900 jobs.

Tennessee workers also continued to lengthen their average workweek and hourly earnings in the manufacturing sector in May. The state labor agency said the average manufacturing worker was on the job in May for an average of 41.8 hours, up from a typical 41.6-hour workweek in April.

The average manufacturing wage in Tennessee grew last month by 3 cents an hour to $17.52. But Tennessee factory wages were still well below the nationwide average of $19.50 in May, according to state figures released Thursday.

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