The February rate had been 8.3, and 8.2 in January.
Bradley County’s new workless picture is tied with the Tennessee rate, but looms ahead of the national mark of 8.2 percent, according to Larry Green, labor market analyst for the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development whose territory of watch includes Bradley County.
“Bradley County had its best gains for March in retail trade,” Green said. “It bounced back real strong. It had been down in January and February (a seasonal trend), but it did come back strong. Leisure and Hospitality (tourism) has started hiring in anticipation of the rafting season.”
Slight employment gains were picked up in construction, but because of the mild winter this category was not affected as adversely during the colder and wetter months, he said. Traditionally, the construction industry slumps badly in winter, but warm temperatures kept many crews on the job — especially with the number of new constructions dotting the Bradley County landscape.
“I was very happy to see the seasonal increase in Leisure and Hospitality,” Green cited. “Retail rebounded. Construction showed gains. Everything was real positive for Bradley County.”
Green pointed to the importance of the figure by alluding to the jobless mark this time last year. In March 2011, the local unemployment rate was 9.3 percent.
“In a year’s time, Bradley County is down to 7.9 percent,” Green noted. “That’s a very good 12-month run for Bradley County. We hope this continues on throughout spring and summer. If these trends continue, Leisure and Hospitality will continue to gain, and retail trade might gain for another month or two but will flatten out in the summer.”
The labor analyst is uncertain of what to expect in manufacturing although the state department is unaware of any pending layoffs or workforce reductions in the Bradley County area.
“I don’t see any negatives on the horizon,” Green said. “Everything I’ve read indicates residential and commercial building permits are up, and their value is up. That being said, and with the new manufacturing plants that are going up, we would hope to see a significant increase in construction hiring.”
Bradley County’s jobless mark places it in a two-way tie with Anderson County for the state’s 23rd lowest rate among the state’s 95 counties. According to labor department updates, Bradley County recorded a total work force of 46,450 in March. Of this number, 42,800 had jobs, leaving 3,650 unemployed.
Hamilton County is the only one of Bradley County’s immediate neighbors with a lower jobless count. The Hamilton figure for March is 7.4 percent, which is a drop from 7.6 in February.
Other neighboring counties included Marion, 9 percent, down from 9.3; McMinn, 9.7, down from 10.3; Meigs, 10 percent, down from 10.6; Monroe, 11.5, up slightly from 11.4; Polk, 10 percent, down from 12 in February; and Rhea, 9.9, down from 10.7.
Statewide, the jobless rate decreased in 89 counties, increased in five and remained the same in one.
For the month, the unemployment rate ranged from 5 to 9.9 percent in 60 counties, and above 10 percent in 35. No counties had rates under 5 percent or higher than 20 percent.
The state’s lowest jobless marks for March were found in Williamson County, 5.2 percent; Knox, 5.7; Lincoln, 5.8; Washington, 6.5; Wilson, Rutherford and Davidson, 6.6; Loudon, 6.7; Sumner, 6.8; and Blount, 7.1.
The state’s highest jobless rates were found in Scott County, 17.1 percent; Obion, 15.2; Pickett, 13.9; Lauderdale, 12.8; Perry, 12.3; Cocke, 12.2; Marshall, 12.1; Weakley, 11.8; Haywood, 11.7; and Jefferson, 11.5.
“There’s not anything that I know of that will dramatically affect unemployment in the next two to three months in Bradley County,” Green said.
He pointed out Bradley County has 19,779 residents who are employed here locally. Another 17,613 workers who live in Bradley County commute to another county for jobs, and 14,444 workers who live outside Bradley County commute into the local community for employment.
“In a year’s time, Bradley County is down to 7.9 percent. That’s a very good 12-month run for Bradley County. We hope this continues on throughout spring and summer. If these trends continue, Leisure and Hospitality will continue to gain, and retail trade might gain for another month or two but will flatten out in the summer.” — Larry Green