The new rate keeps the local mark on pace with the state, yet still below the national rate of 8.2 percent.
Bradley County’s small jobless rise represents a two-tenths of 1 percent increase compared to the April tally of 7.7, according to Larry Green, labor market analyst for the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. In May 2011, the local unemployment mark was 9.0 percent.
“Unemployment went up in Bradley County, but it also went up just about everywhere else too,” Green said. “There wasn’t a whole lot of change in any one industry, but we did have small declines in a couple.”
The slight drops since the last report in April showed up in a category tagged “financial activities” which comprises banks, finance companies and real estate agencies, among others. Green described the job losses as “small.”
Another industry that saw a slump locally is “temporary services” which includes a variety of staffing businesses. Of the state’s list of employment categories, this one is often the most difficult to forecast for future trends, Green explained.
One industry showing a seasonal drop for May is labeled “local government,” a reference to education and the temporary loss of employment by nonteaching personnel within local schools and school systems who are not yearlong contract workers. These job losses will show up most in June and July before employees return to their school jobs in August, Green said.
Job sectors that might have helped to offset job losses this time of year, but instead were only stable, included “leisure and hospitality” (tourism-related operations like hotels and motels, and the variety of rafting and recreation companies along the Ocoee and Hiwassee rivers) and “construction.”
Green said hoped for gains in construction, as well as in manufacturing, could offset any further losses in education, temporary services and tourism. The summer season is traditionally the strongest for construction, tourism and sometimes manufacturing, he pointed out.
Bradley County’s 7.9 mark puts it in a six-way tie for the 27th lowest unemployment rate among the 95 counties in Tennessee. The rate is shared by Chester, Franklin, Hawkins, Macon, Putnam and Bradley counties.
The local jobless mark is based on a total reported labor force in Bradley County of 47,700. Of this number, 43,950 had jobs whether full- or part-time. This left an unemployed balance of 3,750.
With the exception of Hamilton County, the Bradley mark remains well below the jobless ledger for its immediate neighbors. A few of these rates in May included Hamilton, 7.4 percent, which is up from 7 percent in April; McMinn, 9.4 which is up from 9.1; Meigs, 10.9 which is up from 9.9; Monroe, 10.5 which is up from 10.1; Polk, 10.1 which is up from 9.2; and Rhea, 10.2 which is up from 9.5.
Across the state, unemployment rates dropped in only three counties, increased in 87 counties and remained the same in five. Some 67 counties reported jobless marks ranging from 5 to 9.9 percent, and 28 had rates of 10 percent or higher. No counties reported joblessness of less than 5 percent nor higher than 20 percent.
Counties credited with the state’s 10 lowest unemployment rates were Lincoln and Williamson counties, 5.4 percent; Knox, 6; Blount, Loudon and Wilson, 6.4; Sumner and Davidson, 6.7; and Sullivan and Washington, 6.8 percent.
Counties tagged with the state’s 10 highest jobless marks were Scott County, 15.9 percent; Obion, 13.2; Pickett, 12.3; Perry and Lauderdale, 12.2; Marshall and Weakley, 11.4; Hancock, 11.3; White, 11.2; and Van Buren, 11.
Statewide, the 7.9 jobless rate in May is based on a total workforce of 3,106,500, of whom 2,861,300 were working full- or part-time. This left a jobless balance of 245,200.
Nationally, the 8.2 mark is based on a total labor force of 155,007,000. Of this number, 142,287,000 reported having jobs, leaving some 12,720,000 still unemployed.
Ironically, when companies in neighboring counties have workforce reductions or shutdowns, this can affect the Bradley County rate, Green explained. This is because Bradley County has more residents who commute to destinations outside the community for jobs than those outside the county who commute into Bradley for work.
“People file for unemployment in the counties where they live, not in the counties where they work,” Green cited. “For example, in Bradley County if you have commuters going into Hamilton County for work, and they get laid off, then that could have an adverse effect on Bradley County’s unemployment numbers.”
Such impact is common among communities located near the perimeter of larger cities where the job market is more diverse and can draw from the labor force of multiple outlying counties, he explained.