For the month, the Tennessee rate was 9.1 percent, down from the October revised figure of 9.5; and the national mark was 8.6 percent, down from 9.
“Bradley County has got a very good unemployment rate relative to a lot of the counties in the area and across the state,” according to Larry Green, labor market analyst for the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development. “This (7.7) is a very good rate when you consider the Hamilton County mark was 7.4, and it generally runs pretty well below Bradley County.”
The local jobless mark was 8.3 percent in October. Although labor market analysts expected an unemployment decline in November, six-tenths of a percent reduction for Bradley County caught some off-guard. Green credited the improvement to a surprising uptick in the number of construction workers, a category that normally slumps in the winter months.
“It may have something to do with the new (manufacturing) plants that are being built or renovated,” Green suggested. “Typically, construction declines this time of year.”
Another factor that could be influencing construction employment during the cold season is the number of replacement homes being rebuilt or repaired that were destroyed or damaged during the April 27 tornadoes that raked across Bradley County.
The manufacturing category itself slipped a little, but the margin was insignificant, Green advised. “It’s practically even compared to October,” he said.
Holiday hiring in the retail trade industry had the county’s biggest impact. Although most are temporary workers, Green said they still count against the jobless charts, even if just through the end of the calendar year.
Slight decreases in employment were noted in health services (nursing homes and hospitals) and leisure and hospitality (hotels and motels), the latter of which is indicative of the tourism industry. Education or schools, which is included in the local government category, saw a slight gain because of additions in non-teaching staff such as office, maintenance and other personnel.
“Overall, Bradley County looks very good,” Green said. “We had a solid gain in retail trade hiring and the temporary staffing firms came through. Apparently, they supplied some of the temporary workers for the retail industry.”
Bradley County’s 7.7 mark places it in a two-way tie with Anderson County for the 20th lowest unemployment rate across the state.
With the exception of Hamilton County at 7.4 percent, the Bradley jobless figure is easily the lowest among its closest neighbors. Some of those include Marion County, 9.7 percent, which is an increase from 9.6 in October; McMinn County, 10.5 percent, down from 10.9; Meigs County, 11.3 percent, an increase from 11.1; Monroe County, 11.8 percent, a drop from 12.1; Polk County, 12.7 percent, an increase from 11.6; and Rhea County, 12.1 percent, an increase from 11.6.
Statewide, the unemployment rate decreased in 79 counties, increased in 12 and remained the same in four. Of all 95 Tennessee counties, 54 had jobless marks ranging from 5 to 9.9 percent, and 41 had rates of 10 percent or higher. No counties had unemployment rates of less than 5 percent or higher than 20 percent.
Counties with the lowest jobless rates included Lincoln County, 5.6 percent; Williamson, 5.8; Knox, 6.3; Blount, 6.7; Washington, 6.9; Wilson, 7.0; Sullivan and Rutherford, 7.1; and Loudon and Moore, 7.2.
Counties with the highest unemployment marks were Scott County, 17.6 percent; Obion, 15.2; Pickett, 14.5; Marshall, 12.8; Lauderdale and Polk, 12.7; Weakley, 12.4; and Dyer, Perry and Gibson counties, 12.3 percent.
Karla Davis, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development, said the dropping state mark fares well compared to past performance.
“This is the lowest unemployment rate Tennessee has experienced since January 2009 at 9 percent,” Davis said. “After seasonal adjustments were made, nearly 10,000 jobs were created in October with positive job growth in the service sector such as retail trade and temporary jobs.”
The state’s unemployment rate is seasonally adjusted to account for the hiring and layoff patterns that accompany regular events such as the winter holiday season and the summer vacation season, Davis explained.
From October to November statewide, the trade, transportation and utilities sector was up by 9,200 jobs, some 8,900 of which came in retail trade; professional and business services saw a hike of 7,100 jobs; and government (mostly education) increased by 1,800. The state drops in jobs were found in art, entertainment and recreation, down by 1,800 jobs; wholesale trade, down 1,400; durable goods manufacturing, down by 400.
Year-over-year (November 2010 to November 2011) job increases statewide took place in government education services, 12,300; professional and business services, 9,000; and manufacturing, 5,400. Statewide decreases were noted year-over-year in retail trade, 4,700 jobs; merchant wholesalers of nondurable goods, 1,600; and hospitals, 1,400.
In Bradley County, Green said seasonal patterns would point to an even lower jobless mark in December, depending on mostly additional hiring in retail trade.
“What will be interesting will be January, to find out how much of this hiring was permanent and how much was temporary,” Green cited. “We know the retail trade is mostly temporary. We’ll just have to wait and see what December brings, and then get into January to see how many are laid off.”
Overall, Bradley County should feel good about the 7.7 percent mark — especially when compared to the region and the rest of the state, Green said.
“On the whole, nobody can argue with 7.7 percent the way rates have been running,” he noted. “Just getting out of the double digits means a county is doing fairly well. Overall, I see no reason not to be fairly optimistic.”
He said he’ll be watching two developments into the deep winter. One is to determine how many temporary jobs from October, November and December hiring remain permanent; and whether major manufacturers begin to hire again.