This story was updated May 24, 2018, at 10:33 p.m. with more information.
Unemployment in the Chattanooga area fell to an 18-year low last month as local employers added 10,640 jobs over the the past year.
The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development said Thursday the jobless rate in metropolitan Chattanooga dropped by a half of a percentage point to 3.0 percent — the lowest monthly rate since December 2000.
The jobless rate fell to a similar 3 percent rate in metro Cleveland and dropped to a decade-low of 4.2 percent in metro Dalton.
In Southeast Tennessee, the jobless rate was lowest in Hamilton County at a mere 2.8 percent last month, down from 3.3 percent in March.
"Tennessee, and especially growth areas like Chattanooga, are showing sustained, strong growth, and that helped keep more people on the job and fewer filing for jobless benefits," said Dr. Bill Fox, director of the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research.
In the six-county Chattanooga metro area, employment grew by nearly 4.2 percent in the past 12 months, more than twice the pace for the the country as a whole.
The non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate across Tennessee fell in all 95 counties of Tennessee last month, lowering the rate in all areas of the state, including traditionally high jobless counties such as Rhea and Meigs counties, to at or below 5 percent.
"Our investments in education and workforce development are showing results in all corners of the state and to have such low unemployment rates in each county is great news for every Tennessean," Gov. Bill Haslam said in a statement. "Tennessee will lead in job recruitment because we are focused on developing a high quality workforce."
Williamson County continued to have Tennessee's lowest level of unemployment with a rate of 2 percent in April. The new figure reflects a decrease of 0.4 of a percentage point from the previous month.
The counties which saw the highest unemployment during April also experienced a significant drop in unemployment. With a rate of 4.9 percent, Lauderdale County had the second highest unemployment in the state, but that figure is half a percentage point lower than a month ago.
"To see continued low unemployment in our metro areas is great," Tennessee Labor Commissioner Burns Phillips said. "But the decreases we are seeing in our rural and distressed counties show there are new job opportunities statewide."
For the third consecutive month, Tennessee's statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 3.4 percent. For the first time in six months, the national unemployment rate decreased in April when it dropped from 4.1 percent to 3.9 percent.
Doug Berry, vice president of economic development for the Cleveland/Bradley County Chamber of Commerce, said the the local job market "is as tight as I have seen it in nearly 30 years of economic development in East Tennessee."
Industrial recruitment is being more selective and finding qualified workers is now the hardest challenge for many companies.
"The market is dramatically different from what it was in the past," Berry said.
Contact Dave Flessner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 757-6340.
Jobless in April
Unemployment fell in nearly all counties in the Chattanooga region during April:
› Hamilton County, 2.8 percent, down 0.5 percent
› Bradley County, 2.9 percent, down 0.6 percent
› Coffee County, 2.9 percent, down 0.6 percent
› Franklin County, 2.9 percent, down 0.6 percent
› Meigs County, 3.4 percent, down 1.1 percent
› Polk County, 3.4 percent, down 0.8 percent
› Sequatchie County, 3.5 percent, down 0.9 percent
› Grundy County, 3.6 percent, down 0.6 percent
› McMinn County, 3.6 percent, down 0.5 percent
› Marion County, 3.9 percent, down 0.6 percent
› Rhea County, 4.7 percent, down 1.0 percent
› Bledsoe County, 4.8 percent, down 1.0 percent
› Catoosa County, 3.1 percent, down 0.4 percent
› Dade County, 3.1 percent, down 0.6 percent
› Walker County, 3.5 percent, down 0.4 percent
› Chattoooga County, 3.5 percent, down 0.5 percent
› Whitfield County, 4.2 percent, down 1.0 percent
› Murray County, 4.7 percent, down 0.8 percent
Sources: Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Georgia Department of Labor