Bradley jobless rate dips to 8.5%
by RICK NORTON, Associate Editor
Sep 30, 2012 | 1050 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Nonteaching personnel returning to work in area schools, combined with increased hiring in construction and temporary services, dropped Bradley County’s unemployment rate in August to 8.5 percent.

The four-tenths of 1 percent dip from 8.9 in July placed the local job market in a two-way tie with Macon County for the state’s 32nd lowest rate. The new mark is tied with Tennessee’s statewide rate, but is slightly higher than the national tally of 8.1 percent.

“Nonteaching personnel going back to work in the school systems ... was [Bradley County’s] biggest boost,” according to Larry Green, labor market analyst with the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development. “Bradley County also had a small increase in hiring in construction employment and in temporary services.”

Although some hiring is linked to seasonal trends, Green pointed out the manufacturing sector’s stability helped to offset a slight decline in retail trade. The Leisure and Hospitality industry, which is a reference to travel and tourism, also dropped off, “... but that was anticipated.”

“Manufacturing was stable ... we had no fluctuation there hardly at all,” Green noted. “We had pretty much a seasonal type of August ... and we had no surprises.”

The story was much the same across the state as jobless rates fell in 90 counties. The mark increased in only two and remained the same in three. Statewide for the month, 61 counties had unemployment rates ranging from 5 to 9.9 percent, and 34 had marks higher than 10 percent. No counties reported jobless tallies of less than 5 percent or higher than 20 percent.

In Southeast Tennessee, only Hamilton County reported a jobless figure less than Bradley’s. The Chattanooga area mark was 7.7 percent, a significant drop from the 8.4 rate reported in July.

Rates in other counties neighboring Bradley included McMinn, 9.6 percent, down from 10 in July; Meigs, 10.9 percent, down from 11.6; Monroe, 10.5 percent, down from 11.3; Polk, 9.5 percent, down from 9.9; and Rhea, 10.6 percent, down from 11.7.

The Bradley County jobless mark is based on a total reported labor force for August of 47,980. Of this number, 43,910 had jobs, leaving an unemployed balance of 4,070.

Lowest unemployment rates across the state included Lincoln County, 5.7 percent; Williamson, 5.9; Blount and Knox, 6.7; Loudon, 6.8; Wilson, 6.9; Sullivan and Rutherford, 7; and Sumner and Washington, 7.2 percent.

Highest jobless marks in the state were found in Scott County, 17.5 percent; Obion, 14; Weakley, 13.4; Lauderdale, 13; Perry, 12.5; Dyer, 12.1; Pickett, 12; Gibson and Hancock, 11.9; and White, 11.7 percent.

Looking ahead to September, Green said jobless rates normally remain stable or decline even further.

“You always want the August rates to be going down,” Green noted. “You don’t want them to be going up [at this time of year] ... or you’re in trouble. If the rates go up, then something’s not right.”

Business closures, factory shutdowns or unexpected layoffs most likely would be the key factors involved in a reversal of this seasonal trend, he pointed out.

Holiday hiring is expected to begin favorably influencing unemployment rates; however, Green said trends over the past couple of years are showing that such hiring is occurring later in the year.

“It used to be that in October we would actually see some increase in holiday hiring ... but more recently, I’ve seen it taking place more in November,” he stated.

One reason is that more and more full-time employees, and part-time staffers, are accepting employers’ offers to work longer hours as opposed to adding to the workforce during the traditional holiday season, Green explained.

“A lot of employees are opting to work more hours to get extra money for Christmas or for whatever,” he said. “We’ve seen that effect. We will still see an increase in retail trade hiring in October, but it seems like the biggest jump is taking place in November and some in December.”

Green said he doesn’t see any unexpected layoffs looming in the short- or long-term future in Cleveland and Bradley County.

In the long term, the local employment picture could be looking up based on information that surfaced in Thursday’s monthly session of the Cleveland Board of Public Utilities. In the Electric Division report, leaders pointed out CU engineers in August began working with a contractor and a developer representing Publix supermarket and LongHorn Steakhouse respectively. Such preliminary contact with CU is not a commitment by either company; at least, not until a formal announcement is made by the businesses.

The board also heard reports that a local franchise owner is proposing a McDonald’s restaurant for the new Pilot Travel Center at Exit 20 off Interstate 75, and that an unidentified restaurant hopes to build in the Spring Creek development along APD-40/25th Street.