Jobless in December
In the 19-county Chattanooga region, the non-seasonally adjusted jobless rate fell in 14 counties, rose in three counties and was unchanged in two others.
Tennessee: 3.1 percent, down 0.2 percent
Bradley: 2.7 percent, down 0.3 percent
Hamilton: 3.0 percent, down 0.2 percent
Coffee: 3.0 percent, down 0.3 percent
Franklin: 3.0 percent, down 0.3 percent
Polk: 3.7 percent, down 0.1 percent
Van Buren: 3.7 percent, down 0.4 percent
McMinn: 3.8 percent, down 0.2 percent
Meigs: 4.1 percent, unchanged
Marion: 4.2 percent, unchanged
Grundy: 4.3 percent, down 0.3 percent
Sequatchie: 4.3 percent, down 0.1 percent
Bledsoe: 5.2 percent, down 0.1 percent
Rhea: 5.6 percent, up 0.2 percent
Georgia: 4.3 percent, unchanged
Catoosa: 3.6 percent, down 0.1 percent
Dade: 3.9 percent, down 0.2 percent
Walker: 4.1 percent, down 0.1 percent
Chattooga: 4.1 percent, down 0.1 percent
Whitfield: 5.4 percent, up 0.3 percent
Murray: 6.0 percent, up 0.2 percent
Sources: Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development and the Georgia Department of Labor
Chattanooga area employers added 11,207 jobs in the past year to cut the region's jobless rate by 1.5 percentage points during 2017.
The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development said Friday the unemployment rate in the six-county Chattanooga metropolitan area fell last month to 3.4 percent — the second lowest monthly rate on record and 30 percent below the 4.9 percent jobless rate of a year earlier.
The only month with a lower jobless rate in metro Chattanooga was in September when unemployment dipped to a record low of 3.2 percent.
Employment in metro Chattanooga jumped by 4.5 percent in the past 12 months, according to preliminary figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That was more than triple the rate nationwide and reflects Chattanooga's growth from Volkswagen's expansion, the growth in startup businesses and continued expansion in health care, building and other economic sectors buoyed by the 8-year-old economic upturn.
"Automotive is an entirely new industry for Chattanooga (since VW located in Chattanooga in 2008) and the investment in the entrepreneurial ecosystem is driving significant business formation," said Charles Wood, the chief economic recruiter for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce. "And those investments drive airport boardings, healthcare, housing and retail growth."
Last year was a record year for both airport boardings and home sales in Chattanooga.
Wood said the growth "did not happen by accident," citing the investments by the city, county and private sector in economic and community development programs he said are paying dividends for the local economy.
The jobless rate fell even lower in the neighboring Cleveland, Tenn., metro area, where unemployment last month dropped to 2.9 percent after employers in the Cleveland area added a net 1,875 jobs over the past 12 months.
Bradley County, which boasted the lowest jobless rate among counties in the Chattanooga region at 2.7 percent, moved into the list of the top 10 counties in the state for the lowest jobless rate in December.
"We've made a tremendous amount of progress over the last 12 months," Tennessee Labor Commissioner Burns Phillips said in a report on the December jobless numbers. "It's great the counties with the lowest rates all experienced a decrease in unemployment during December. But Tennessee's economic outlook is even more encouraging when you compare the year-to-year figures for every county in the state."
Among Tennessee's 95 counties, 89 reported unemployment under 5 percent last month.
The Nashville suburb of Williamson County had Tennessee's lowest rate at 2.2 percent.
Rhea County once again had the state's highest unemployment rate at 5.6 percent, up 0.2 percent from the previous month. Even with the increase, Rhea County's jobless number for December 2017 was down 3.3 percent from its December 2016 rate of 8.9 percent.
Tennessee's statewide unemployment rate of 3.1 percent in December (or 3.2 percent when seasonally adjusted) was the lowest among its neighboring states in the southeast and it is the 8th lowest among all 50 states.
Georgia's jobless rate was unchanged at 4.3 percent, which was slightly above the U.S. rate of 4.1 percent last month.
Among the state's 14 metro areas, Dalton had the highest unemployment rate at 5.5 percent last month, up 0.2 percent.
Nonetheless, employers in metropolitan Dalton, Ga., boosted employment by 1,173 jobs over the past 12 months to cut the jobless rate from 6 percent at the end of 2016 to 5.5 percent last month.
Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler still called 2017 "a banner year for job creation, employment and work force gains" in the Dalton area.
"This is a very good year for the Dalton area," Butler said. "All of the major indicators trended in the right direction. I'm expecting the same will continue in 2018."
From its peak unemployment rate of 13.6 percent near the end of 2010, the jobless rate in Dalton has dropped by nearly 60 percent over the past seven years coming out of the Great Recession.
Dalton, the self-proclaimed "Carpet Capital of the World," produces more than two thirds of all carpets and rugs made in the United States.
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or at 423-757-6340.
This story was updated Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, at 10:44 p.m.