Tennessee job growth maintains tight labor market; Georgia jobless rate falls to near 2-decade low

job tile job application / Getty Images
job tile job application / Getty Images

Tennessee employers continued to add jobs at a faster pace than the U.S. average over the past 12 months, creating nearly two open jobs for every Tennessean still out of work.

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development said Thursday the state's jobless rate edged higher in June due to more workers coming into the labor market than the 9,600 additional jobs added across the state in June. But even with the uptick in the jobless rate from the historic low reached this spring, Tennessee's unemployment rate last month of 3.4% was well below the U.S. jobless rate of 3.7%.

"I don't think this monthly increase in the unemployment rate means anything in terms of the underlying economic performance and direction of Tennessee's economy," said Dr. Bill Fox, director of the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research. "We still have an unemployment rate that is near historically low levels and in this environment anyone who has the skills and wants to work can find a job. With unemployment so low, it is harder to sustain the kind of growth in employment or decline in the jobless rate we saw in previous years but that simply reflects how strong the economy is right now."

Over the past 12 months, non-farm employment grew by 52,100 jobs and employment in the state grew at a robust 3.1% pace, more than triple the U.S. growth rate in employment of 0.9% in the same period, according to household surveys by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Tennessee career centers on Thursday listed 192,494 available jobs, which is over 70% more than the 112,200 persons who were counted as unemployed and still looking for work in June across Tennessee.

Jobless in June

› 3.4% in Tennessee, up 0.1% from the previous month› 3.7% in Georgia, down 0.1% from the previous month› 3.7% in the U.S. as a whole, up 0.1% from the previous monthSource: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

"Companies continue to show they have confidence in our state's economy and in Tennessee's workforce by adding nearly 10,000 jobs in June and that's impressive," Tennessee Labor Commissioner Jeff McCord said.

To the south, Georgia continued to have a slightly higher jobless rate than in Tennessee. But employers in the Peach State added the most workers of any June in more than two decades last month, helping to lower Georgia's jobless rate to its lowest level of the year.

The Georgia Department of Labor said the state's unemployment rate fell during June by a tenth of a percentage point to 3.7%, matching the U.S. rate for last month and tying the 2-decade low jobless rate that Georgia reached at the end of last year.

Despite the job gains across Georgia, however, the number of people in the labor force fell for the third consecutive month, according to job figures released Thursday. Over the past 12 months, Georgia has added 80,000 jobs.

"The numbers for June are very impressive," Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said. "There's plenty to be encouraged about in the June report."

Claims for unemployment insurance were near record lows in Georgia while employment in the state was at a record high of more than 4.6 million.

Employment also grew in Tennessee to a record high of more than 3.1 million employed persons and the average manufacturing wage paid in Tennessee grew by 32 cents an hour in the past year to $20.18 an hour. Despite the gain, however, manufacturing wages in Tennessee still averaged 7.4 % less than the U.S. average factory wage of $22.03 an hour last month.

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