Unfortunately, history records that traditionally low year-end jobless rates will rise in January because temporary jobs have ended and other employment sectors like construction will have slowed to a crawl.
In addition to these trends, Cleveland’s unemployment charts face another challenge; that is, the recent closure of two restaurants (Moe’s Southwest Grill and Ryan’s), and the planned shuttering of a major grocery chain outlet (Food Lion on APD 40) and a longstanding retail anchor at Bradley Square Mall (Sears).
On the surface, Bradley County’s jobless mark — currently ranked in a four-way tie for the 11th lowest statewide — looks to face incredibly favorable odds for January and beyond.
Although labor market analysts are stopping short of predictions — unemployment is like the weather which is influenced by multiple variables — they do believe Bradley County has reason to feel good about the immediate future.
Consider these factors:
One, the four prominent closures and their related unemployment claims likely will be spread over two to three months. Moe’s workers who have lost their jobs are expected to be included in the January unemployment report; however, the workforce was small and many have already found new work. Ryan’s workers should be included in the February jobless report, Food Lion in March and the Sears schedule has not been confirmed. The more these layoffs are spread over multiple months the less they’ll impact the county’s total marks.
Two, the construction industry in Bradley County witnessed a small surge in December. This is unusual for the winter months which are a normal down time for outdoor workers. It is hoped the unexpected building spree will continue throughout the season’s cold and wet months.
Three, Whirlpool Cleveland Division recently completed a jobs fair to fill the first 60 of a planned 130 new production positions to be needed in conjunction with the opening of the new 1-million-square-foot, $120 million manufacturing facility on Benton Pike. Too, Whirlpool Cleveland Customer eXperience Center (the call center) is adding jobs because of increased Canadian call volume.
Four, Wacker has increased its investment in the new Charleston-area plant by another $300 million, bringing the total commitment to $1.8 billion. It is uncertain whether this will translate into additional hiring in the short or long term, but any surge in spending is a plus for the community and surrounding area.
Five, spring lies only a month away. By then, even if construction has sagged in January and February, it should surge with the return of warmer, and more reliable, weather.
Six, warmer weather brings another plus — travel. Area tourism (the leisure and hospitality sector) will spring to life while creating new jobs within area hotels and motels. A good example is the planned opening of the new Holiday Inn Express on Huff Parkway.
No one can say for certain what lies ahead for Bradley County’s unemployment rate. Experts worth their salt in realism know better than to speculate, and anyone with a crystal ball might best use it as a paper weight.
But this we know. Evidence “suggests” that although another 7.2 or like rate for January is improbable, the damage might not be as bad as history dictates.
At least, we can hope.