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A record number of Tennesseans and Georgians were on the job last month, cutting the unemployment rate in Tennessee to a 28-month low and keeping Georgia's jobless level at the lowest rate in modern history.

Both states have now recovered all of the jobs lost due to the COVID-19 virus outbreak even though employment nationwide has yet to rebound to the pre-pandemic levels, according to job figures released Thursday.

"We continue to see very strong employment growth, which is good news for those seeking employment but remains a difficult challenge for many employers," Dr. Bill Fox, director of the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee, said in an interview with the Chattanooga Times Free Press."This is a fully employed economy in Tennessee at this point and we have more than regained the jobs lost during the pandemic."

Over the past 12 months, employment in Tennessee grew at a robust 4.6% pace, adding 145,510 more jobs across the Volunteer State. The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development reported Thursday that the state's jobless rate of 3.4% last month was down from 3.5% in January and 5% a year earlier.

In neighboring Georgia, employment has grown even faster with employers growing their staffs by 4.9%, adding 232,000 more jobs in the past year to reduce the unemployment rate in the Peach State to a mere 3.2%. The Georgia Department of Labor said that was lowest jobless rate among the top 10 more populated states in the country and matched the record low set in January.

"This state has continued to be successful in creating jobs and getting Georgians employed in these positions," Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said in a report Thursday. "All of this has led to our number of unemployed being the lowest since June of 2001."

Butler said Georgia ranked No. 6 among all states in the number of new jobs added in the past year and he said the state's jobs website, EmployGeorgia.com, identified over 320,000 unfilled positions in the state. Market salaries for the jobs listed on Employ Georgia range from $23,000 to $102,000, showing a median salary of $42,000.

Jobless in February

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rates fell last month as the economy continued to grow and add jobs.

* 3.2% in Georgia, unchanged from January

* 3.4% in Tennessee, down from 3.5% in January

* 3.8% in the U.S., down from 4% in January

Sources: Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Georgia Department of Labor and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In Tennessee, the state's employment offices listed 440,957 jobs on Thursday, or more than four times as many jobs as the 112,996 Tennesseans counted last month as unemployed and still looking for work.

Fox said long-term demographic changes and lifestyle rethinking during the pandemic have combined to likely lower the share of adults in the workforce compared with the past. That will likely prolong the tight labor market in the future.

Although the war in Ukraine and higher interest rates pushed by the Federal Reserve Board may slow economic growth, Fox said he expects the state's economy and labor markets to continue to grow in the year ahead.

Unemployment in Tennessee last month was at the lowest level since October 2019 and close to the 3.3% low reached nearly three years ago.

Separately on Thursday, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits last week fell to its lowest level in 52 years. Jobless claims fell by 28,000 to 187,000 for the week ending March 19, the lowest since September of 1969.

The U.S. economy is on track to recoup the 22 million jobs lost during the pandemic recession by late this year, Moody's Analytics' chief economist, Mark Zandi, wrote in a research note.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340.

 

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