And in truth, it is.
Yet some will smirk in the face of such good news by pointing to the days of jobless marks that once hovered consistently in the 5 to 6 percent range, or less. Those who take such an attitude can’t be blamed for wanting to wish away the foul stench that has lingered within our nation’s economy since late 2007 — the period generally accepted by most financial analysts as the start of The Great Recession.
Yet wishing is a far cry from doing.
America’s, and much of the resåt of the world’s, monetary outlook has been sorely tested for five years. Its rebound has been gradual, and by most measures quite slow. It isn’t where it needs to be, but — depending upon the last person speaking — it is getting better. Times are still hard for most, especially the beleaguered lower and middle classes. But at least we can look around and see positive signs.
In our Cleveland and Bradley County community, those signs are everywhere. New companies are constructing modern buildings or are already operating from them; we speak of the Amazon fulfillment center and the Wacker Polysilicon North America complex in our county’s northern end. Existing companies are expanding; we see the growth of old friends like Olin Chlor-Alkali, Lonza (formerly Arch Chemicals) and PG Duracell, among others.
Some with a longstanding presence in Bradley County are picking up and starting over in a completely new facility; obviously, we refer to Whirlpool Cleveland Division whose 1,500-plus workers are our hometown’s largest employer. Totaled, Whirlpool employs more than 2,000 in its diverse Cleveland-based operations thanks to its call center (Whirlpool Cleveland Customer eXperience Center) and the cooking technology and engineering staff which constitutes a third distinct function within the corporation’s operation.
Too, new restaurants have continued to open while it is also our understanding a new eatery will soon be occupying the Paul Huff Parkway structure recently abandoned by Ryan’s. Although we have lost a few businesses along the way, including Sears, one Food Lion site and Moe’s Southwest Grill, we have reason to believe new faces are on the way. One potential newcomer is a major player in the grocery industry.
Other developments remain in the hopper. Downtown Cleveland continues to welcome new business operations and we continue to look to Bradley Square Mall for a planned remodeling that could include new tenants of its own.
While some development is still in the rumor stage, others are real. These will mean new jobs for local residents which could whittle down even further the 7.9 percent jobless rate.
The change in season will have its traditional impact as well. New and existing hotels will greet the recreation and rafting season of Southeast Tennessee, and construction hiring will continue to pick up.
Retail trade likely will hold its own and temporary staffing is expected to remain strong because these are many of the workers being hired by local industry, new and old.
Another positive spin is right in front of our eyes. It’s called direct comparison. In March 2011, the local jobless mark was 9.3 percent. The 1.4 percent dip a year later is a compelling story. We keep our fingers crossed its tale will get even brighter.
Labor Market Analyst Larry Green, who monitors Bradley County’s job picture for the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, feels good about the local gains.
So do we although ours remains a cautious optimism based on expectation.
But a cautious optimism is better than no optimism at all.