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The non-seasonally adjusted jobless rate in the Chattanooga area rose at the start of 2018 to its highest monthly level since last March despite fairly robust job growth in the region over the past year, the state jobs agency reported today.

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development said unemployment in metropolitan Chattanooga averaged 3.9 percent in January, up from 3.3 percent the previous month. Tennessee Labor Commissioner Burns Phillips said the rise in unemployment reflected primarily seasonal employment changes following the Christmas holidays when retail and other jobs increase rose to yearly highs.

"Because of seasonal employment trends, Tennessee typically sees a slight uptick in county unemployment at the start of the year," Phillips said."But the year-to-year comparison of statistics shows just how well the state is doing when it comes to job creation."

Over the past 12 months, Chattanooga area employers added a net 9,287 more jobs, boosting the number of people employed in the 6-county area by 3.7 percent or more than twice the growth pace nationwide. The unemployment rate declined from 5.6 percent in January 2017 to 3.9 percent in 2018.

Chattanooga's unemployment rate in January remained below the U.S. rate but higher than the statewide jobless level.

Williamson County continued to have Tennessee's lowest unemployment rate at 2.5 percent, which is a 0.3 percent increase from December.

Unemployment in January was highest in Rhea and Houston counties at 6.8 percent.

Tennessee had a statewide seasonally unemployment rate of 3.3 percent in January, which was the sixth lowest in the nation. The national unemployment rate was 4.1 percent last month.

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