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In this Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015, photo, military veteran Mark Cannon, of Miami, right, talks with Cynthia Carcillo, left, a veterans outreach representative for Career Source Broward, about employment opportunities at a job fair for veterans, in Pembroke Pines, Fla. Fewer Americans applied for unemployment claims last week, another sign of strength in the job market. Weekly applications for unemployment benefits fell 11,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 271,000, the Labor Department said Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Jobless in November

In the 13 counties in Southeast Tennessee, unemployment declined in seven, rose in five and was unchanged in one during November.

* Bradley County, 5.0 percent, unchanged

* Franklin County, 5.0 percent, up 0.2 percent

* Hamilton County, 5.2 percent, down 0.1 percent

* Coffee County, 5.2 percent, up 0.1 percent

* McMinn County, 6.3 percent, down 0.1 percent

* Sequatchie County, 6.4 percent, down 0.2 percent

* Polk County, 6.5 percent, down 0.3 percent

* Marion County, 6.8 percent, down 0.2 percent

* Grundy County, 7.0 percent, up 0.1 percent

* Bledsoe County, 7.1 percent, up 0.4 percent

* Van Buren County, 7.2 percent, down 0.2 percent

* Meigs County, 7.3 percent, down 1.1 percent

* Rhea County, 7.3 percent, up 0.3 percent

Source: Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development

Natashia Wilson got an early 34th birthday gift two weeks ago when she landed a job helping clean and maintain the Amazon fulfillment center in Chattanooga.

"I couldn't have had a better birthday gift, thanks to the folks here who helped me fill out my application and get hired," Wilson said Wednesday outside the Tennessee Career where she found her first job. "It's great to have a job and finally be working."

With unemployment declining, employers are eager to find more workers like Wilson to fill new jobs opening up as the economy improves and aging baby boomers retire.

"The job market is probably as tough for employers right now as I've seen in 30 years in this business," said Mark Campbell, owner of the local Manpower franchise. "With the expansions by Volks- wagen, Wacker, Gestamp, Yanfeng and others, there is a lot of demand for new employees."

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development said Wednesday the jobless rate in metropolitan Chattanooga fell by a tenth of a percent to 5.2 percent. Although slightly above the low point reached in April, unemployment in the six-county Chattanooga metro area has still fallen nearly in half from the 10.2 percent peak reached in June 2009 in the depths of the Great Recession.

Over the past year, Chattanooga area employers added 6,026 jobs, according to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce estimates local employers will add more than 13,000 more jobs over the next five years.

Wilson landed a job with IH Services, which is providing janitorial and maintenance service for the Amazon fulfillment centers in Tennessee. Local employment at Amazon's distribution centers in Chattanooga and Charleston, Tenn., swelled to more than 6,000 full- and part-time workers during the holiday season over the past couple of months.

Amazon, which picked Chattanooga and Charleston for distribution sites in 2010, has quickly grown into the largest private employer in the Chattanooga area during its holiday seasonal hiring peak.

In spite of the job gains at Amazon and other employers in the Chattanooga area, however, most counties in Southeast Tennessee still had unemployment rates above the U.S. average of 5 percent during November. Among the 13 counties in Southeast Tennessee, only two matched the U.S. jobless rate and none were below the national average last month.

The nonseasonally adjusted jobless rate in metropolitan Chattanooga dipped in April to 5.1 percent — the lowest month rate since April 2008. Unemployment in Chattanooga drifted higher this summer but has declined in each of the past four months.

Dr. William Fox, director of of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee, projects employment will grow around 2 percent more again in 2016.

"We're seeing steady and pretty consistent employment growth and we expect that to continue," Fox said in an interview earlier this month.

Fox predicts the addition of the second vehicle line at Volkswagen's Chattanooga assembly plant will eventually add 9,800 jobs from VW, its suppliers and other businesses spurred by the $600 million investment.

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

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