A still sluggish economy that kept midsummer vacationers off the highways, slowed temporary hiring and forced a few isolated layoffs in the retail industry may be partially to blame for a slight increase in Bradley County’s unemployment rate for the month of July.
A one-tenth of 1 percent rise in joblessness from 8.8 percent in June to 8.9 a month later is the bad news. The good news is Bradley County’s broad employment base — credited primarily to a seasonal stability in manufacturing and construction — kept the overall impact to a minimum.
“We had a small reduction in employment in retail trade,” according to Larry Green, labor market analyst for the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development who monitors the Cleveland and Bradley County job market. “We had several stores laying off a few here and there. Also, our leisure and hospitality (tourism) was down some. That one is a bit unusual because July is still the tourist season.”
Although any number of factors could be involved in the drop in tourism-related hiring, most fingers continue to point toward a slowly recovering economy that continues to impact household budgets and travel habits.
“You don’t normally see [tourism] decline until September when people stop taking vacations,” Green said.
In spite of these slight negatives, the job losses are not considered significant because they were offset by stable hiring in construction and manufacturing.
“Three industries pulled us down a little — retail trade, leisure and hospitality, and temporary services,” he noted. “But on a positive note, we had stable employment in manufacturing. It didn’t register any significant gain or loss, and construction was also stable. These two held everything together.”
Green said all three levels of government employment — federal, state and local — also were stable.
A one-tenth of 1 percent increase is certainly not indicative of [a trend],” Green stressed. “Typically speaking, nonteaching personnel will be back on the employment rolls in August. Barring any private industries going down, that should help our rate.”
The seasonal trend calls for joblessness to decline beginning in August, and is normally followed by increased hiring as the year-end holiday season approaches, he said.
Although the slight unemployment increase might have raised a few eyebrows in the middle of the tourist season, Green said another perspective is to take note of how Bradley County’s balanced employment base offset the unexpected losses. Construction and manufacturing chipped in when other job sectors took mild hits, he noted.
Given the return to work by nonteaching personnel, and traditional year-end hiring, Green said he sees no reason the Bradley County jobless rate will continue to rise deeper into the year.
Even at 8.9 percent, the local mark continues to show improvement over 2011 when the July figure was 9.5 percent. However, the local rate exceeds both the state (8.4) and national (8.3) marks.
Bradley County’s tally is based on a July workforce of 43,650 who have jobs and 4,260 who do not. The mark puts Bradley in a three-way tie with Dickson and Madison counties for the 28th lowest jobless rate among Tennessee’s 95 counties.
A few jobless rates among Bradley County’s neighbors included Hamilton, 8.4 percent, representing an increase from 8.3; Marion, 9.8, a hike over 9.4; McMinn, 10 percent, which stayed the same; Meigs, 11.6, a rise from 11.5; Monroe, 11.3, which stayed the same; Polk, 10 percent, a drop from 10.2; and Rhea, 11.7, an increase from 11.3.
Across the state, jobless rates dropped in 20 counties, increased in 59 and stayed the same in 16. Some 41 counties had jobless marks ranging from 5 to 9.9 percent, and 54 had rates exceeding 10 percent. One county reported joblessness above 20 percent.
Among the state’s lowest rates in July were Lincoln and Williamson counties, 5.9; Knox, 6.7; Loudon, 6.9; Wilson and Blount, 7; Sumner and Rutherford, 7.3; and Davidson and Washington, 7.4.
Among the state’s highest rates were Scott County, 21.7; Weakley and Obion, 16; Lauderdale and Pickett, 13.8; Perry, 13.7; Dyer, 13.4; Hancock, 13.3; Gibson, 12.8; and Van Buren, 12.6.