Tennessee jobless rate hits all time low

Tennessee jobless rate hits all time low

Georgia unemployment rate drops to lowest in decade

October 20th, 2017 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

Jobless in September

› 3 percent: Tennessee unemployment rate, down 0.3 percent

› 4.2 percent: U.S. average unemployment rate, down 0.2 percent

› 4.5 percent: Georgia unemployment rate, down 0.2 percent

Sources: Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Georgia Department of Labor

Unemployment in Tennessee fell to another historic low last month as employers across the state added 44,200 jobs over the past year to push unemployment in the Volunteer State to a mere 3 percent of the workforce.

Tennessee's jobless rate, which was well below the comparable U.S. rate of 4.2 percent or Georgia's 4.5 percent rate in September, was the lowest monthly rate in Tennessee since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking the information in January of 1976.

"I think Tennessee will continue to keep growing even as we are getting close to full employment now," said Dr. Bill Fox, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee. "The state has done a really good job of attracting businesses to Tennessee, but local businesses are doing well also. Tennessee is enjoying some of the best growth in tax revenues and some of the lowest rates of unemployment right now in the Southeast."

Employment grew by about 1.5 percent in the past 12 months across Tennessee, outpacing the 0.8 percent growth in the state's workforce. Those changes combined to cut the jobless rate from 4.9 percent a year ago to 3 percent last month.

"The fact the unemployment rate is down nearly 2 percentage points from a year ago is great news," Tennessee Labor Commissioner Burns Phillips said. "But if you look back to January of 2010, when the rate was above 10 percent, you can clearly see the progress Tennessee has made since then."

Despite an increase in jobless claims because of Hurricane Irma last month, unemployment also fell in Georgia during September to the lowest rate in more than a decade.

The Georgia Department of Labor said Thursday the jobless rate in the Peach State declined during September by two-tenths of a percentage point to 4.5 percent — the lowest rate since June 2007. Georgia employers have added 84,000 jobs in the past year.

"Even though the hurricane did have a negative effect on Georgia's job and unemployment claims numbers, we still had a record month for employment and persons entering the workforce," Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said, noting that nearly 25,000 more Georgians filed jobless claims last month. "This shows the strength of Georgia's economy and job market."

Butler said employment among the state's residents was up by 35,649 from August. That's the largest single-month gain in at least 40 years.

The household survey of residents in Tennessee showed employment rose during September by 38,100.

Average weekly earnings for manufacturing workers in Tennessee also grew last month by $11.51 to $830.19. But while most Tennessee factory workers got bigger pay increases than the nationwide average gain of $2.53 per week, Tennessee manufacturing wages last month still averaged 5.7 percent less than the U.S. average.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said the drop in unemployment is proof of the success of the state's education and development efforts.

"As a state, we have invested in our workforce through education programs like Tennessee Reconnect and Tennessee Promise, creating a workforce prepared to fill jobs and increasing the number of high-skilled Tennesseans." Haslam said.

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