Tennessee adds 45,000 jobs in past year; jobless rate near historic lows

FILE - This April 22, 2014, file photo shows an employment application form on a table during a job fair at Columbia-Greene Community College in Hudson, N.Y. On Thursday, June 8, 2017, the Labor Department reports on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits a week earlier. (AP Photo/Mike Groll, File)

Tennessee employers added 45,000 jobs across the state in the past year, lowering the state's seasonally-adjusted jobless rate from 4 percent a year ago to 3.4 percent last month.

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development said Thursday that unemployment in the Volunteer State during April was a half percentage point below the U.S. rate of 3.9 percent last month and, not adjusted for seasonal factors, was the lowest monthly rate for unemployment in Tennessee in modern history.

"With the economy being so far into the recovery as it is, it's getting increasingly difficult to have really high growth rates," said Bill Fox, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. "But we continue to see solid growth in our state, and labor force participation rates continue to improve as more workers come back into the labor market and employers continue to add to their staffs."

Fox said he expects the economy to remain strong for at least the rest of this year in Tennessee.

A household survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the number of Tennesseans on the job rose by 2.2 percent in the past year, or more than 50 percent faster than the U.S. growth pace in jobs of 1.4 percent.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, who released the jobs report Thursday, said he expects the economy to continue to generate more jobs as evidenced by announcements of major job additions in the past month from AllianceBernstein in Nashville, Coil Design Corp., in Dayton, and Chemring in Hardeman County.

"For more than a year now, Tennessee continues to see unemployment rates lower than ever before," Haslam said. "In just the past three weeks, we have announced more than 2,000 new jobs coming to our state, which sets the path for unemployment to remain low and for Tennesseans to benefit from that job growth."

April 2018 marks one year since Tennessee's unemployment rate dropped to 4 percent for the first time in recent history. The state recorded an all-time low unemployment rate of 3.3 percent in September of last year. That figure is just 0.1 of a percentage point lower than the latest rate.

Despite the relatively low rate of unemployment, average manufacturing wages in Tennessee last month were still 63 cents per hour less than a year ago due to the changing composition of factory jobs and the lack of any major increase in hourly rates. BLS reported the average manufacturing wage in Tennessee last month was $19.23 an hour, compared with $19.86 an hour a year ago.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.