Tennessee jobless rate tops Georgia for first time in 5 years

Tennessee jobless rate tops Georgia for first time in 5 years

March 6th, 2015 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

Job seekers wait in a line at a job fair in this file photo

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Unemployment in Tennessee rose during January above the jobless rate in neighboring Georgia for the first time since the Great Recession ended five years ago.

But the higher jobless rate didn't mean fewer Tennesseans are on the job. The Volunteer State actually added 71,700 jobs over the past year, including 8,300 jobs in January, for a healthy 2.6 percent gain in employment in the past 12 months.

Despite such gains, however, the jobless rate in January in Tennessee rose to 6.7 percent, up from 6.6 percent in December and the same rate as a year ago. More Tennesseans were in the job market looking for work this year than were a year ago, offsetting the employment gains.

Conversely, Georgia's jobless rate fell by two-tenths of a percent in January even though the seasonally adjustment job totals in the Peach State fell by 4,400 jobs, or 0.1 percent, during the month. Georgia's 6.4 percent jobless rate was the lowest since July 2008 and 1.1 percentage points below the rate in January 2014.

"Our unemployment rate dropped for the seventh month in a row as we had 4,400 fewer jobs available than in December," Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said. "We also had fewer new claims for unemployment insurance benefits, which is a measure of new layoffs."

Butler said most of the job loses were in temporary holiday jobs eliminated after Christmas.

"But, while we lost those seasonal jobs in January, as often do, we had the strongest January-to-January growth we've had in 20 years," Butler said.

Over the past year, Georgia employers have added 131,900 jobs, growing employment by 3.2 percent in the Peach State, or nearly double the national growth pace.

In Tennessee, the biggest gains in employment over the past year were in manufacturing, up by 10,000 jobs; transportation and utilities, up by 16,900 jobs; and professional services, up by 16,300 jobs.

Construction employment in Tennessee also rose over the past year and should continue to show gains with stronger home building activity in 2015, according to Tennessee Realtors.

"Businesses are growing, people are starting families, and new opportunities are always right around the corner," said Memphis real estate broker Pat Beech, the president of the Tennessee Association of Realtors.

Despite this week's now, Beech said that spring is on its way "and Tennessee's market is ripe with plentiful possibilities."

The employment market in Chattanooga received a boost Wednesday with the announcement that Amazon will add at last 400 jobs in Chattanooga. Middle Tennessee got a boost Thursday with the announcement that Gruppo Concorde will add 180 jobs in Mt. Pleasant, Tenn. The company is the fifth ceramic tile producer to locate in Tennessee since 2011. Collectively, those firms have added 630 jobs.

"Tennessee continues to build upon its reputation as the North American location choice for the international tile manufacturing industry," Tennessee's economic development commissioner Randy Boyd said.

In January, the average manufacturing worker in Tennessee was paid $19.65 an hour, or 6 cents an hour less than the average of a year ago.

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