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Tennessee Career Centers listed 202,921 available jobs on Tuesday, or nearly twice as many jobs as the 104,662 Tennesseans who were identified last month as unemployed and looking for work across the Volunteer State.

With Tennessee's unemployment rate falling in September to 3.2%, many jobs are getting harder to fill, especially in careers with growing demand.

What jobs are hardest to fill and growing the most?

The Center for Economic Research at the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development analyzes 775 occupations across Tennessee each year and projects which jobs are expected to grow the most in the next 10 years.

In the 10-county Southeast Tennessee area, nine of the 10 fastest growing occupations are projected to grow by more than 40% in jobs ranging from nurse practitioners and therapists to brickmasons and software developers.

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Read the annual LEAP report

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Statewide, Tennessee had more than 8.3 million unique job postings in 2018, and over 958,000 hires. In the 10-county Southeast Tennessee region in and around Chattanooga, there were 826,200 job postings during 2018 and 114,505 hires.

The new study projects the state will have more than 224,000 projected job openings from 2016 to 2026.

The annual Labor and Education Alignment Program (LEAP) report identifies nearly 290 occupations statewide that businesses need to fill. The LEAP Report seeks to aid local, regional and state policy decision-making and outlines areas for increased alignment between education and industry.

The study says opportunities for workforce development include programs such as work-based learning, internships, co-ops and apprenticeships, along with new education programs such as the Futures Ready Institutes in Hamilton County

In Southeast Tennessee, the study identified 152 occupations with high employer demand and projected there will be another 23,430 job openings over the next decade.

In Chattanooga, a study by a variety of community and local government groups with the aid of Avalanche Consulting also assessed the economic direction and future for Hamilton County over the past year as part of Velocity 2040. A new 5-year economic development plan billed as "Chattanooga Climbs" grew out of that study and dentifies talent recruitment, development and retention as key to the future growth of the region.

Fast growing in-demand jobs in Southeast Tennessee

1. Nurse practitioners, 73.5% growth with 918 persons currently in the job

2. Marriage and family therapists, 65.3% growth with 125 persons currently in the job

3. Information security analysts, 62.5% growth with 143 persons currently in the job

4. Merchandise displayers, 56.1% growth with 192 persons currently in the job

5. Brickmasons and blockmasons, 51.4% growth with 168 persons currently in the job

6. Occupational health and safety specialists, 50.7% growth with 202 persons currently in the job

7. Software developers, 42.8% growth with 614 persons currently in the job

8. Human resources specialists, 41.7% growth with 1,312 persons currently in the job

9. Market research analysts and marketing specialists, 41.7% growth with 741 persons currently in the job

10. Logisticians, 34% growth with 205 persons currently in the job

Source: Center for Economic Research at the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. Data is for 10-county area in Southeast Tennessee, including Bledsoe, Bradley, Grundy, Hamilton, Marion, McMinn, Meigs, Polk, Rhea and Sequatchie counties.

"We need to keep our community's focus on building a robust talent pipeline — at the school district level and in partnership with our area colleges and universities," said Charles Wood, the vice president of economic development for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.

Bob Rolfe, the state's commissioner for the Department of Economic and Community Development, said the new LEAP report outlines strategies for Tennessee to help support workforce alignment with marketplace needs.

"Gov. (Bill) Lee places training and education at the forefront of his agenda, creating tremendous opportunity for our businesses to have the workforce they need to be successful," Rolfe said in a statement about the new employment and jobs forecast.

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

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