By RICK NORTON
Anchored by seasonal increases in support staff on area college campuses, as well as continued hiring by local school systems, Bradley County’s unemployment rate has tied its all-time low for the …
Anchored by seasonal increases in support staff on area college campuses, as well as continued hiring by local school systems, Bradley County’s unemployment rate has tied its all-time low for the month of September.
Patrick Todd, statistical analyst supervisor for the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, confirmed Thursday the local jobless mark plunged to 2.8 percent. The August figure was 3.5.
It is the second time this year Bradley’s unemployment rate has fallen to this level. The May figure also landed at 2.8, and the same occurred almost 19 years ago in December 1998.
“Usually, the May and September rates are similar,” he said.
In May, construction hiring is beginning to hit full swing for the summer, and in September education-industry workers — mostly support staff — who have been off work for the season return to their jobs.
In local school systems, support workers normally return to their posts in August, and this favorably impacts the jobless rate for that month, Todd explained. In Bradley County, this was the case when the July rate of 4.1 dipped to 3.5 thanks to school-system hiring.
The September plunge is credited almost exclusively to education because construction and manufacturing numbers remained unchanged from August, he said.
“Retail trade was unchanged, as well,” he added.
The area’s total job gains hit about 200 for the month, Todd noted.
The Bradley mark compares favorably to both the state and nation. For the month, Tennessee’s jobless rate fell to 3 percent, down from 3.3. Nationally, the figure dipped to 4.2, down from 4.4.
In Southeast Tennessee, Bradley continued its domination of the employment picture. Although its immediate neighbors also witnessed employment gains, the local job market continued to lead the way in percentages.
Rates along Bradley’s perimeter included Hamilton, 2.9, down from 3.6; McMinn, 3.4, down from 4.1; Meigs, 3.9, down from 4.9; Monroe, 3.1, down from 3.9; Polk, 3.3, down from 4.2; and Rhea, 4.9, down from 6.
Employment fortunes in Meigs County will go up in the short-term future thanks to an announcement last week by Shaw Industries. The global corporation confirmed a $42 million expansion in the Decatur plant that will add 75 new jobs. A timetable for the upgrade has not yet been confirmed.
At 2.8, Bradley’s jobless mark is tied with two other counties — Coffee and Putnam — as the state’s 22nd lowest rate.
Bradley’s jobless plunge came in good company. For the month, all 95 counties in Tennessee saw increased hiring, according to state department records. The news is even better statistically. The jobless rate across the state for September is 4.9 percent or less in all 95 counties. No county jurisdiction recorded jobless marks of 5 percent or higher.
Statewide, counties with the lowest rates included Williamson, 2.1; Davidson, 2.2; Rutherford, Cheatham, Wilson and Sumner, 2.3; and Sevier, Marshall, Moore and Knox, 2.5.
Counties with the highest marks were Rhea, 4.9; Weakley, 4.8; Lauderdale and Houston, 4.6; Obion, 4.5; Bledsoe, 4.4; Hancock and McNairy, 4.3; and Unicoi and Hardeman, 4.2.
The low 2.8 figure for Bradley positions the local jurisdiction for the potential of record low numbers going into the holiday season. Traditionally, retailers will begin adding to their sales staffs in November. This normally contributes to the year’s final two months as being among the lowest in joblessness based on past trends.
Todd suggested the holiday impact could begin a little earlier in Bradley County because of the Amazon fulfillment center near Charleston. The facility traditionally adds seasonal workers in early fall and keeps most until after the new year.
“November is certain to be impacted by retail trade,” Todd said. “And in Bradley County, Amazon should have a big impact.”
" Bradley’s jobless plunge came in good company. For the month, all 95 counties in Tennessee saw increased hiring, according to state department records. The news is even better statistically. The jobless rate across the state for September is 4.9 percent or less in all 95 counties. No county jurisdiction recorded jobless marks of 5 percent or higher."
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