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Unemployment fell to a 17-low in Georgia and remained near its historic low in Tennessee last month as both states continued to show job gains above the U.S. average.

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development said Thursday that the state's jobless rate in July was unchanged at 3.5 percent. Although the unemployment rate in Tennessee has increased slightly from the historic low of 3.3 percent reached last fall and is unchanged from a year ago, employers across the state still added 59,700 more jobs over the past 12 months, including 2,500 non-farm jobs in July, to keep pace with the growth in the workforce.

Jobless in July

* 3.5 percent in Tennessee, unchanged from June

* 3.9 percent in Georgia, down 0.2 percent from June

* 3.9 percent in the United States as a whole, down 0.1 percent from June

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

"It's encouraging to see so many new jobs coming to Tennessee," said Burns Phillips, the state's labor commissioner.

According to the household surveys by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in Tennessee grew by 1.9 percent over the past year, surpassing the 1.6 percent gain nationwide, even with a lower unemployment rate in the Volunteer State than the United States as a whole.

"Tennessee's economy is strong and that shows in both a continuous low unemployment rate and the creation of more new jobs," Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said in a statement announcing the July jobless numbers.

Tennessee career centers listed 184,599 job vacancies Thursday, or 38 percent more jobs than the 133,400 persons who were unemployed and looking for work last month.

While Tennessee's unemployment rate remained unchanged during July, the national unemployment rate ticked down by 0.1 percent last month to 3.9 percent.

In Georgia, where the jobless rate has remained above the U.S. average for the past decade, unemployment dropped last month by two-tenths of a percent to 3.9 percent — the lowest since 2001.

In July, Georgia added another 5,300 jobs to push the state's total number to 4.54 million – a record high. Over the past year, Georgia added 83,200 new jobs.

"Georgia, like the nation, is in a period of continued economic growth," Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said. "We continue to set records in all the key metrics."

The lowest previous jobless rate in Georgia was 3.4 percent, reached in late 2000 at the end of the prolonged economic expansion of the 1990s.

With such good jobs and employment numbers, Georgia also continued to attract people to its workforce at a record pace. That number grew in July by 6,648 to 5.2 million – another all-time high. Over the past 12 months, Georgia added 92,769 people to its workforce, an average of 7,700 a month.

In Tennessee, the labor force has grown by 66,500 workers over the past 12 months to a record high of nearly 3.3 million.

Despite the continued growth in employment, however, wages for manufacturing workers in Tennessee last month averaged $19.76 an hour, or 10 cents an hour below the average in June and 7.8 percent below the U.S. average hourly pay for factory workers, according to preliminary wage figures released by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

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

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