Unemployment in the Chattanooga area remained lowest at the start of 2014 in the bedroom communities of North Georgia, according to government figures released Thursday.
Despite an increase in the unemployment rate from December to January in all three of the Georgia counties in metropolitan Chattanooga, the jobless rate in the region remained lowest during January in Catoosa County at 5.2 percent, in Dade County at 6 percent and in Walker County at 6.2 percent.
Across the region, unemployment was highest in the rural counties of Rhea and Polk counties in Southeast Tennessee and in the metropolitan Dalton counties of Whitfield and Murray, which are still recovering from the housing slowdown and its impact on the carpet industry.
In the six-county Chattanooga metro area, unemployment in January was up a tenth of a percent from the previous month to 6.8 percent. Although still above the comparable U.S. rate of 6.5 percent, Chattanooga's jobless rate was below the statewide rate in Tennessee of 7.3 percent during January.
A year ago, unemployment was 7.5 percent in metro Chattanooga.
"We're seeing slow, but steady growth in employment and we would anticipate that to continue through 2014," said Bill Fox, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee.
But Fox cautioned that unemployment rates could remain historically high for this point in the economic recovery since the improving economy is bringing many discouraged workers back into the labor market looking for work. That helped boost the U.S. jobless rate in February. State and local figures for last month will be released later this month.
Across Tennessee, unemployment in January was lowest in the Nashville suburb of Williamson County at 4.5 percent and highest in the East Tennessee rural county of Scott, where 15.9 percent of the labor force was out of work in January.
Among Tennessee's major metro areas, the jobless rate was lowest in Nashville at 5.3 percent and highest in Memphis at 8.4 percent.