Although some of the trend is seasonal, it is a favorable comparison to the unemployment rate of a year ago. In April 2011, the local jobless mark was a flat 9 percent, according to Larry Green, labor market analyst for the Tennessee Department Labor and Workforce Development. Green monitors the employment picture in Bradley County.
The local numbers put Bradley County well below the national unemployment rate of 8.1 percent and just under the state mark of 7.8.
“This (7.7 percent) is definitely headed in the right direction,” Green said. “What I really like about this rate is that in April 2011, Bradley County was at 9 percent. That puts the local rate down 1.3 percentage points, and that is good.”
The local jobless mark in March was 7.8 percent. Although the April drop constitutes only a small decrease, it does show hiring upticks in construction, retail trade, tourism (recognized as Leisure and Hospitality) and temporary services. The only slight dip in local hiring came in manufacturing, but it wasn’t enough to offset the gain in the other categories.
The latest Bradley County mark is based on a total labor force of 46,590. Of this number, 43,020 were working and 3,570 were unemployed. The figure is unofficially the 33rd lowest jobless mark across Tennessee’s 95 counties.
Neighboring counties continued to see slight improvements. One of the most significant came in Polk County whose 9.9 percent mark in March fell to 9.2 in April. The lowest single rate in the region came in Hamilton County at a flat 7 percent, compared to 7.3 in March.
Other Bradley County neighbors included Marion County, 8.1 percent, down from 9 percent; McMinn, 9.2 which is down from 9.7; Meigs, 10 percent which remained unchanged; Monroe, 10.1 which is down from 11.4; and Rhea, 9.5 which is down from 9.9.
Statewide, the April unemployment rate dropped in 84 counties, increased in five and remained the same in six. For the month, the jobless rates ranged from 5 to 9.9 percent in 73 counties, and from 10.1 to 19.9 percent in 22. No counties had unemployment rates of less than 5 percent; none had marks higher than 20 percent.
In April, the state’s lowest jobless rates were found in Williamson County, 5.3 percent; Lincoln, 5.5; Knox, 5.8; Loudon, 6.2; Blount and Wilson, 6.3; Washington and Sullivan, 6.4; Davidson, 6.5; and Sumner, 6.6.
The state’s highest marks were found in Scott County, 15.4 percent; Obion, 12.7; Pickett, 12.1; Lauderdale, 11.9; Perry, 11.6; Marshall, 11.2; Hancock and Weakley, 10.9; Haywood, 10.8; and Lawrence, 10.6.
“Overall, Bradley County is headed in the right direction,” Green said. “Normally, we see the unemployment rates starting to come down in March or April. Our next scheduled bump in employment could be in June when nonteaching personnel are added.”
Compared to the higher national and state rates, as well as in neighboring counties in Southeast Tennessee, the jobless numbers in Bradley County are showing improvement, he said.
“Compared to other small counties of similar size, Bradley County does quite well,” Green noted. “I’ve always stressed that Bradley County has a good balance between manufacturing and nonmanufacturing employers.”
The local future looks promising, at least in the short-term.
“I don’t see anything on the horizon that would be detrimental to the unemployment rate,” Green stressed. “I don’t know of any planned layoffs or closures.”