Tennessee jobless rate falls to 16-year low

Tennessee jobless rate falls to 16-year low

State's unemployment dips to 3.9 percent

June 15th, 2017 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

FILE - In this Thursday, March 3, 2016, file photo, people sit through an employment orientation class at the Georgia Department of Labor office in Atlanta. On Thursday, May 18, 2017, the Labor Department reports on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits a week earlier. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

Photo by The Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Unemployment in Tennessee fell to the lowest monthly level in more than 16 years last month as employment grew across the state in the past year at twice the national rate.

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development said today that the statewide jobless rate in May fell by seven-tenths of a percent from April to 4 percent ┬áin May — the lowest rate since February 2001 when 3.9 percent of the workforce in Tennessee was out of work.

"May's unemployment rate is notable for a couple of reasons," Tennessee Labor Commissioner Burns Phillips said. "It's the lowest rate Tennessee has seen in about 20 years, which is outstanding, and the state figure is now lower than the national average."

Nationwide, the U.S. jobless rate averaged 4.3 percent last month.

In neighboring Georgia, unemployment fell to the lowest level in nearly a decade. The 4.9 percent jobless rate in the Peach State was the first time unemployment has fallen below 5 percent since 2007.

Georgia employment in the past year also continued to grow at nearly twice the U.S. rate even though the jobless rate in Georgia remains above the U.S. average.

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said the growth in jobs and drop in unemployment "is a testament to the attractiveness of Georgia's job market when we continue to see more and more individuals enter and re-enter the job market and find employment."

Over the past year, Georgia gained a total of 103,100 jobs, a 2.4 percent growth rate.

According to household surveys by the BLS, emmployment in Tennessee grew by 72,100 jobs in the past year. That 2.4 percent growth pace was double the comparable U.S. growth rate of 1.2 percent.

The fastest growth in jobs across Tennessee in the past year came in state government, up by 7.1 percent, construction, up 6.7 percent and real estate rental and leasing, up 6.3 percent.

"While the statewide numbers look good for May, we know there are still several distressed counties across Tennessee and we need to focus on the unemployed workers in those areas," Phillips said.

Tennessee and Georgia will release local and county jobless rates next Thursday.