The share of Tennessee adults with jobs fell last year by the biggest amount of any state in the country, according to a new federal report.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that only 55.6 percent of those over the age of 16 in Tennessee had jobs in 2013, down 1.1 percent from the 56.7 percent with jobs in the previous year.
Georgia also saw a slight dip last year in its employment-population ratio, falling 0.1 percent to 57.9 percent, BLS said.
Nationwide, an estimated 58.6 percent of adults had jobs in 2013, unchanged from the previous year.
The share of adults working is at at three-decade low as more adults are retired, more students are staying in school longer and unemployment remains at historically high levels. Many persons have simply dropped out of the labor force, economists said.
"We had trend increases when women and Baby Boomers entered the workforce in the 1960s and 1970s and now we're seeing some trend decreases as Baby Boomers and others reitre and others drop out of the workforce," said Dr. Bill Fox, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee. "Those trends have been certainly been exaggerated by the economic shifts and challenges we're experienced through the recession and its aftermath."
But Fox said he doesn't believe those trends are different in Tennessee than they are in the country as a whole.
The household survey data from BLS in 2013 has unexpectedly tended to paint a more negative employment portrait than the separate survey of employers conducted by BLS, Fox said
"This has been troubling data for us throughout 2013," he said. "The employer survey has shown continued job growth and we continue to see other signs of economic growth that overall make us believe that Tennessee is growing slowly, but at a similar path to the county as a whole."
In the next few weeks, there should be a benchmark revision to help update and improve the data, Fox said.
Before such revisions, BLS estimates that Tennessee's jobless rate for all of 2013 was unchanged at 8.2 percent while Georgia's unemployment rate fell last year from 9 percent in 2012 to 8.2 percent in 2013.
Nationwide, unemployment fell in 2013 to an average 7.4 percent.
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or at 757-6340.