Local jobless rate falls in September

In this Thursday, June 21, 2018 photo, a job applicant looks at job listings for the Riverside Hotel at a job fair hosted by Job News South Florida, in Sunrise, Fla. The Labor Department said Friday, July 6, that the unemployment rate rose to 4.0 percent from 3.8 percent as more people began looking for work and not all of them found it. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Jobless in September

In the 19-county Chattanooga region, the non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell in 15 counties, rose in three counties and was unchanged in another during September.* Catoosa, Ga., 2.7 percent, down 0.6 percent* Chattooga, Ga., 3.1 percent down 0.6 percent* Walker, 3.1 percent, down 0.5 percent* Dade, 3.4 percent, up 0.1 percent* Hamilton, 3.5 percent, down 0.2 percent* Franklin, 3.6 percent, down 0.1 percent* Bradley, 3.8 percent, down 0.2 percent* Coffee, 3.8 percent, down 0.1 percent* Whitfield, Ga., 3.8 percent, down 0.2 percent* Polk, 4.1 percent, down 0.3 percent* McMinn, 4.2 percent, down 0.1 percent* Sequatchie, 4.3 percent, down 0.2 percent* Meigs, 4.5 percent, down 0.2 percent* Murray, Ga., 4.6 percent, unchanged* Marion, 4.7 percent, down 0.4 percent* Bledsoe, 5 percent, down 0.3 percent* Grundy, 5.2 percent, up 0.5 percent* Van Buren, 5.2 percent, up 0.1 percent* Rhea, 5.3 percent, down 0.6 percentSources: Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Georgia Department of Labor

Chattanooga area employers added 4,722 jobs over the past year, helping to keep the jobless rate in the 6-county metropolitan area below both the state and national averages during September.

Unemployment in metro Chattanooga fell by three tenths of a percentage point last month to 3.4 percent. Although above the historic low of 3 percent reached in April, the jobless rate in Chattanooga remained 0.2 percent below the rest of Tennessee and 0.3 percent lower than the U.S. average.

The jobless rate was lowest in the Northwest Georgia counties of metropolitan Chattanooga, where unemployment fell to only 2.7 percent in Catoosa County and 3.1 percent in Walker County.

The decline in joblessness, which is expected to continue with the holiday hiring season ahead in the fourth quarter, is pushing unemployment close to what economists regard as full employment where all available workers with the right skills can find jobs.

Statewide, Tennessee Career Centers on Thursday reported 177,867 job openings, or nearly 50 percent more available jobs in Tennessee than the 117,400 unemployed persons looking for a job last month, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Across Tennessee, unemployment fell in September in 70 counties, remained the same in 15 counties, and 10 counties experienced a slight increase in unemployment.

"It's encouraging to see so many counties report lower unemployment rates for the second consecutive month," said Tennessee Labor Commissioner Burns Phillips. "Many of the counties with the state's highest unemployment still experienced a decrease in September."

In Southeast Tennessee, Bledsoe and Rhea counties ranked among the top four counties in the state for the highest unemployment rate in September, but the jobless rates fell in both of those counties.

Among the state's major metro areas, only Nashville had a lower jobless rate than Chattanooga last month.

To the south in metro Dalton, Georgia, unemployment fell by two tenths of a percentage point in September to 4 percent - the lowest rate since since May 2007 and less than a third of the peak unemployment rate reached in Dalton during the depths of the Great Recession when unemployment reached 13.6 percent at the start of 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Dalton's unemployment rate remained above Georgia's statewide rate of 3.7 percent last month and Dalton was tied with Albany for the highest jobless rate in September among Georgia's 11 metro areas, according to the Georgia Department of Labor.

But Dalton area employers continued to add jobs over the past year even as the overall labor force remained relatively stagnate. Over the past 12 months, employers in metro Dalton, which includes Whitfield and Murray counties, added a net 854 jobs while the labor force grew by only 13 more workers,

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said that all indicators still remain positive for the year with the exception of initial claims, which are up 62 percent across Georgia.

"It's exciting to see so many of our communities across the state doing so well," Butler said in an employment report released today. "We continue to add jobs and see the unemployment rate fall. Even better, people are getting hired - often at record levels."

Employment is at record levels in most American cities, including Chattanooga. But while employers in Dalton have added nearly 5,000 jobs in the past five years, employment in the metro Dalton area still remains 10.5 percent, or 6,897 jobs, below the all-time employment peak reached at the end of 2006 before the Great Recession.

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