Tennessee and Georgia unemployment rates steady and below US average

Staff Photo by Dave Flessner / A hiring sign at Buffalo Wild Wings, shown in November, is typical for many restaurants trying to fill job openings.

Unemployment remained near historic lows and below the national average in both Tennessee and Georgia last month as employers continued to add jobs despite higher interest rates and growing concerns about a potential recession later this year.

"The labor market has been very strong and continues to be strong," Jeffrey Humphreys, director of the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia, said in a telephone interview Thursday.

Humphreys projects a 60% chance of an economic downturn, or recession, in the second half of 2023, which he said will boost Georgia's unemployment rate above 4% for the first time in more than two years.

But for now, Georgia's jobless rate has remained unchanged for the past seven months at 3.1%, according to the Georgia Department of Labor. In Tennessee, unemployment last month was at 3.5%, the same rate it has been for five consecutive months, according to state employment figures released Thursday.

Nationwide, unemployment last month edged up two-tenths of a percent to 3.6%.

(READ MORE: Tennessee business leaders more optimistic about state's economic outlook than nation's, survey shows)

Tennessee employers added a net 4,800 jobs last month, while employers in Georgia expanded their payrolls by 3,200, according to each state's labor department.

Humphreys said the economy remains healthy for workers trying to find a job, but finding workers remains a challenge for many employers.

"Due to sustained investments in the state's economy and talented workforce, Georgia remains a top destination to live, work and raise a family," Georgia Labor Commissioner Bruce Thompson said in a report released Thursday.

The February job reports preceded the recent turmoil in the financial markets caused by the collapse of a couple of U.S. banks, and another interest rate hike this week by the Federal Reserve could add another brake in the economic growth path.

(READ MORE: Tennessee's economy grew the second fastest of any state in 2022)

"We haven't had any bank failures in this region, and I don't expect any, but that still has a negative impact on consumer and investor confidence going forward," Humphreys said.

Even with many interest rates doubling in the past year, Tennessee employers added 103,300 jobs to their payrolls and Georgia employers added 135,100 more workers to their staffs over the past 12 months.

On Thursday, Tennessee career centers listed 369,324 open jobs, or more than three job openings for each of the 120,560 Tennesseans who were listed as unemployed in February.

Jobless in February

— 3.1% unemployment rate in Georgia, unchanged for the past seven months.

— 3.5% unemployment rate in Tennessee, unchanged for the past five months.

— 3.6% unemployment rate in the U.S., up from 3.4% in January.

Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6340.