Unemployment in the Chattanooga area fell again last month as employers continued to hire more workers despite higher interest rates and inflation.
The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development said the jobless rate in metropolitan Chattanooga in July fell to 3.5% — just above Chattanooga's all-time low unemployment rate of 2.6% reached in April.
Despite more than a half dozen plant shutdowns announced already this year in the Chattanooga area, Chattanooga area employers continue to hire more workers and added a net 7,599 more jobs over the past 12 months, including 4,278 during the usual summer seasonal surge in July, according to state employment estimates released this week.
"The Tennessee labor market remains very strong," Don Bruce, director of the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee, said in a conference call last week.
But higher interest rates are likely to limit jobs in interest-sensitive housing, construction and some manufacturing, Bruce said.
Unemployment rose last month in metro Dalton, Georgia, by four-tenths of a percent to 4.2% as the Carpet Capital continued to experience some of the impacts of the housing and building slowdown brought on by higher interest rates.
Last month, Eureka Foundry announced it will soon close its foundry after 121 years. Eureka is the seventh manufacturer to either close or announce plans for a closing in the Chattanooga region so far in 2023. Collectively, the plant shutdowns this year will end up cutting almost 1,000 jobs.
But most of the layoffs from the plant closings won't begin appearing in the unemployment reports until this fall.
Shaw Industries in Decatur, Tennessee, and Arcade Beauty in Chattanooga are closing their facilities next week, and Eureka Foundry in Chattanooga will shut down in early September. Collectively, those plant closings will cost nearly 500 jobs.
Ahead of those closings, Chattanooga's nonseasonally adjusted jobless rate in July remained below both the comparable statewide rate in July of 3.7% and the U.S. unemployment rate of 3.8% last month.
But outside of the six-county Chattanooga metropolitan area, the more rural counties in Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia all had jobless rates above the U.S. average in July.
In neighboring metropolitan Cleveland, Tennessee, which includes Bradley and Polk counties, the jobless rate in July fell by two-tenths of a percent to 3.9% but that was still above the comparable U.S. and statewide jobless rates.
Bledsoe County continued to have the highest jobless rate among Tennessee's 95 counties at 6.2% in July. But that was still down from the 6.4% jobless rate in Bledsoe County in June.
Unemployment in Grundy and Van Buren counties also was above 5% in July, and they were among the top 10 counties in Tennessee with the highest jobless rates last month, according to state figures.
The county employment numbers reported by Tennessee and Georgia labor agencies this week are not seasonally adjusted. When adjusted for normal seasonal variations, Tennessee's statewide unemployment rate in July fell to an all-time low of 3.1%.
Jobless rates in July
— Dade, Georgia, 2.6% down from 3% in June.
— Catoosa, Georgia, 2.7%, down from 3% in June.
— Walker, Georgia, 2.9%, down from 3.4% in June.
— Hamilton, 3.7%, down from 4% in June.
— Coffee, 3.7%, down from 3.9% in June.
— Bradley, 3.9%, down from 4.1% in June.
— Franklin, 3.9%, down from 4% in June.
— Chattooga, Georgia, 3,9%, down from 4.2% in June.
— Murray, Georgia, 4.1%, up from 4% in June.
— Whitfield, Georgia, 4.2%, up from 3.8% in June.
— Cumberland, 4.3%, down from 4.7% in June.
— Polk, 4.3%, down from 4.6% in June.
— McMinn, 4.6%, down 4.7% in June.
— Sequatchie, 4.6%, down from 4.8% in June.
— Marion, 4.7%, down from 5.1% in June.
— Meigs, 5%, down from 5.2% in June.
— Rhea, 5%, down from 5.1% in June.
— Grundy, 5.1%, down from 5.4% in June.
— Van Buren, 5.2%, down from 5.8% in June.
— Bledsoe, 6.2%, down from 6.4% in June.
Sources: Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development and Georgia Department of Labor