Jobless rates continue rise in Tennessee, Georgia

By the numbers

* 7.4 percent - Tennessee jobless rate in August, up from 7.1 percent in July

* 8.1 percent - Georgia jobless rate in August, up from 7.7 percent in July

* 6.1 percent - U.S. jobless rate in August, down from 6.2 percent in July

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

Unemployment rose in August for a fourth consecutive month across both Tennessee and Georgia.

Despite a decline in the U.S. unemployment rate, joblessness rose last month by three-tenths of a percentage point in Tennessee to 7.4 percent and jumped four-tenths of a percentage point in Georgia to 8.1 percent.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate in August fell by a tenth of a percent to 6.1 percent.

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mike Butler said jobs continued to grow while unemployment claims fell in August across the Peach State so he questioned the reliability of the initial unemployment rate estimate.

"We had good job growth, both over the month with 24,700 new jobs and over the year with 79,300 more jobs, and initial claims, a leading economic indicator that measures new layoffs, decreased 27 percent," Butler said. "All of this positive data makes the rate increase somewhat questionable."

Employment grew by six-tenths of a percent from July to August and Georgia added 2 percent more jobs over the past year, Butler said.

"With continued job growth and fewer layoffs, we would expect the rate to come down," he said.

A year ago, the initial August unemployment rate was later adjusted downward by a half percent "and we expect a similar reduction this year," Butler said.

In Tennessee, the jobless rate fell for eight consecutive months in late 2013 and early 2014 before beginning its steady rise since April. Tennessee's 7.4 percent jobless rate in August was the highest in the state since December and was based, in part, on a household survey that showed job declines in many industries.

But according to an economic analysis released by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, a business survey of Tennessee employers found that total employment in the state was up 6,700 jobs because of increases in manufacturing, administrative and food service employment.

Among manufacturing workers in Tennessee, the average worker was on the job for 42.1 hours per week last month and earned an average weekly wage of $737.59.

Such wages were up in Tennessee by $10.41 a week from July's level. But Tennessee manufacturing wages, on average, were still 10.5 percent less than the U.S. average.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfree or at 757-6340.