Rising jobless rate linked to season
by RICK NORTON Associate Editor
Jul 29, 2012 | 1179 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Seasonal employment drops in four categories hiked Bradley County’s jobless rate in June by a full percentage point to 8.8, but in spite of its appearance the sky is not falling, according to the assessment of a labor market analyst who monitors the Cleveland area outlook.

“Overall, it was a pretty typical June,” said Larry Green, a Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development staffer whose years of experience on the job have taught him this — the month of June is one of the most unpredictable of the year.

“You know it (unemployment rate) is going to go up in June, you just don’t know how much,” he stressed. “A one-point rise is significant, but it’s not indicative of a trend.”

Like the mercury in a thermometer that goes up in summer and back down with cooler temperatures, the same is expected to happen with the jobless rate when nonteaching school personnel return to their jobs in August, he explained.

When the most recent school season ended, nonteaching workers were removed from employment rolls. Each year this influences the jobless mark until school doors reopen later in the summer.

But this time the unemployment rise wasn’t all about school support personnel. Green said the retail trade industry, Education and Health Services (which includes private schools) and temporary staffing services also saw drops in employment.

The damage that forced Bradley County’s jobless rate upward to 8.8 might have been worse, but the month of June also saw pickups in hiring. Construction, manufacturing and tourism (the latter of which is referred to as Leisure and Hospitality which includes hotels and motels) enjoyed employment gains. Again, this is seasonal because hiring traditionally picks up in construction in the summer months, as well as in tourism when the Cleveland area benefits from its proximity to traveler destination hot spots.

Increases in manufacturing were frosting on the cake, he pointed out.

On paper, Bradley County’s numbers aren’t appealing because they exceed the national jobless rate of 8.2 and the state mark of 8.1; however, it’s still a vast improvement over this same period in 2011, Green noted.

“For last June, we were at 9.9 percent so we’re still in better shape now than we were last year,” he stressed.

More good news for the Bradley County rate is that the mark finds itself in a three-way tie with Moore and Putnam counties for the 28th lowest out of Tennessee’s 95 counties. Plus, the Bradley County mark compares favorably to its immediate neighbors with the exception of Hamilton County, a bigger metro area whose jobless rate for the same month is 8.3 percent.

Unemployment marks among Bradley County’s other neighbors include McMinn County, 10 percent, up from 9.3 in May; Meigs County, 11.6 percent, up from 10.9; Monroe County, 11.3 percent, up from 10.4; Polk County, 10.2 percent, up from 10.1; and Rhea County, 11.3 percent, up from 10.1.

Still another perspective on the June unemployment rates is this — everybody went up in Tennessee.

“All 95 counties went up,” Green said. “It’s a typical June. It’s a seasonal thing.”

One other factor influencing the Bradley County mark-up was a few layoffs in neighboring counties. In some cases, local residents who commute to work to adjacent communities lost their jobs. Although they work in another county, their layoffs are recorded in Bradley County’s monthly report. This impact the local numbers.

Statewide, 47 counties reported jobless marks ranging from 5 to 9.9 percent. The other 48 counties had rates of 10 percent or higher. No counties had rates of less than 5 percent nor higher than 20 percent.

The state’s lowest rate was found in Williamson and Lincoln counties at 5.9 percent. Other low marks were Knox County, 6.7 percent; Loudon, 6.8; Wilson and Blount counties, 7; Davidson and Sumner, 7.3; Rutherford, 7.4; and Robertson County, 7.5 percent.

The state’s highest mark went to Scott County at 18.5 percent. Other high rates were found in Obion County, 14.8; Lauderdale, 13.5; Weakley and Van Buren, 13.2; Pickett, 13; Dyer and Hancock, 12.9; Perry, 12.8; and Hardeman County, 12.5.

Based on seasonal expectations, the month of July — if it follows tradition — should see some stabilization with rates just as likely to show a slight decrease or small increase. Either way, Green doesn’t expect a significant change in either direction.

In August, the unemployment numbers should begin to decline because nonteaching personnel will be returning to their school jobs, he said. By then, hiring should begin to pick up in other categories — especially retail trade — with the approach of the year-ending holiday seasons. Unexpected variables like business closures or factory hiring upticks could tilt the trends in either direction, Green added.

“I would be very surprised if it doesn’t pretty much level off in July ... and hopefully decline in August,” he said.

Bradley County’s 8.8 mark is based on a total labor force of 47,860 with 43,640 of those on the job, leaving a balance of 4,220 without work.