Dr. Bill Fox, director of the University of Tennessee Center for Business and Economic Research, answers questions during the State Funding Board meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2005, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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Burns Phillips, commissioner of the department of labor and workforce development for the State of Tennessee, speaks at a news conference Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, at the Denso manufacturing plant in Athens, Tenn. The company announced an expansion at the event.

Jobless in May

The non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose in most Southeast Tennessee counties last month but remained below 5 percent across the region.The county jobless rates in May were:

* Hamilton, 2.9 percent, up 0.1 percent

* Franklin, 3.0 percent, up 0.2 percent

* Coffee, 3.0 percent, up 0.1 percent

* Bradley, 3.1 percent, up 0.2 percent

* Polk, 3.4 percent, unchanged

* Sequatchie, 3.5 percent, unchanged

* McMinn, 3.5 percent, down 0.1 percent

* Grundy, 3.7 percent, up 0.1 percent

* Meigs, 3.8 percent, up 0.4 percent

* Marion, 4.0 percent, up 0.2 percent

* Van Buren, 4.4 percent, up 0.4 percent

* Rhea, 4.8 percent, up 0.2 percent

* Bledsoe, 4.9 percent, up 0.2 percent

Source: Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development

Chattanooga area employers added 8,747 jobs in the metro region over the past year, keeping the jobless rate at one of its lowest levels in two decades.

With a jump in new Tennessee business formations this year, economists expect the growth in jobs and economic activity will continue through at least the balance of 2018.

"We continue to see very healthy growth in the economy of Tennessee as a whole and Chattanooga in particular," said Dr. Bill Fox, director of the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee. "We remain very upbeat about the direction of the economy and expect strong GDP growth this year following the big tax cuts implemented earlier this year."

Unemployment in the 6-county Chattanooga region edged up to 3.1 percent in May from the record low 3 percent rate reached in April. But the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development said the rise reflected more workers coming into the labor market, not any drop in jobs.

"While some counties experienced a slight uptick in their rates between April and May, the numbers are still very impressive," said Burns Phillips, Tennessee's commissioner of labor and workforce development. "For nearly an entire year Tennessee has continued to experience historically low unemployment."

Over the past 12 months, employment in metro Chattanooga grew at a healthy 3.4 percent pace, or more than twice the rate for the United States as a whole.

The non-seasonally adjusted 3.1 percent jobless rate in May in metro Chattanooga was well below the comparable U.S. rate of 3.6 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Initial business filings this year suggest that the economic recovery — already the second longest on record — will continue through at least this year.

The number of new businesses across Tennessee grew by 10.7 percent to 11,480 new entity filings during the first quarter of 2018 compared to the same time last year, according to Tennessee's Secretary of State's office.

Business starts — traditionally a strong barometer of future economic health — have now had positive year-over-year growth for six and a half years.

"Quarter after quarter we continue to see the positive effects of having a business-friendly state," Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett said in a report on the growth of new business starts. "Businesses big and small are choosing our great state because of the welcoming policies we have in place."

As of April 1, 2018, there were 273,437 active entities in Tennessee representing a 5.5 percent increase compared to the same time last year.

Contact Dave Flessner at or at 757-6340