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This story was updated Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019, at 9:47 p.m. with more information.

Chattanooga has the best hiring outlook of any major metropolitan area in the country heading into 2020, according to a new employer survey from ManpowerGroup.

With a net employment outlook of 34%, Chattanooga topped the list of the 100 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the ManpowerGroup survey that projects hiring trends in the first quarter of 2020.

Mark Campbell, who owns the Manpower offices in Chattanooga, Cleveland and Athens, Tennessee, said he has never seen the local job market as tight as it is today in his 28 years in the staffing industry.

"Volkswagen is gearing up for its [electric vehicle] expansion and the economy in general continues to grow," Campbell said. "You look on virtually every corner and there is a hiring sign and it's definitely a challenge now to find enough workers."

Chattanooga net employment outlook

Q1 2020: 34%

Q4 2019: 21%

Q1 2019: 27%

Source: ManpowerGroup

VW is adding 1,000 jobs and investing another $800 million at its Chattanooga assembly plant to add an electric vehicle line, which is also creating new opportunities for area automotive suppliers. But a host of other local companies from freight brokers to solar panel producers are also adding jobs next year.

Chattanooga's jobless rate in October fell to 3% — the lowest October rate on record in modern history and near the historic low of 2.8% reached in Chattanooga in April.

Over the past decade, Chattanooga has added nearly 38,000 jobs, boosting employment in the six-county Chattanooga region by more than 16% since the start of 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For the study, ManpowerGroup interviewed more than 11,500 employers across the U.S., asking them their hiring plans for the first quarter of 2020. The net employment outlook figure is the percentage of employers who intend to hire minus the percentage who intend to reduce employment. The survey is conducted quarterly, and has been running for more than 55 years.

Net employment outlook for 1Q 2020

34%: Chattanooga

28%: Charleston, South Carolina; Little Rock, Arkansas

22%: Charlotte, North Carolina

21%: Columbia, South Carolina; Baton Rouge, Lousiana

14%: Nashville

10%: Atlanta

"I'd say Chattanooga's on fire in terms of growth," said Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce President Christy Gillenwater. "Chattanooga's No. 1 position in the country for jobs proves that collaboration, vision and teamwork can bring about great results."

The Chamber's Velocity 2040 and Chattanooga Climbs economic development plans focus in part on developing the local workforce to fill the jobs of the future. The Chamber has assessed gaps in the talent pipeline across occupations and industries, and found that the greatest talent shortfalls are in technology and engineering.

The ManpowerGroup outlook measures sentiment in projecting future trends, said Danielle Switalski, a spokeswoman for the company.

"[The outlook] specifically looks at hiring intentions only, and the hiring outlook doesn't take into account market factors such as companies with plans to relocate into a state or city that plan to hire," she said.

Forbes magazine featured Chattanooga's anticipated hiring boom in an article about the ManpowerGroup survey, and the news comes on the heels of new research that shows Chattanooga is seeing faster growth in foreign-born residents than any other city.

Contact Mary Fortune at mfortune@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6653. Follow her on Twitter at @maryfortune.

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

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