Unemployment rate remains unchanged
by RICK NORTON, Associate Editor
Nov 29, 2012 | 971 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
LUV WATSON, center, a 37-year server at Old Fort Restaurant on 25th Street, finishes up on an order at the end of a meal for customers Dax and Brittany McGowan. In her long career at Old Fort, waiting on tables is the only job Watson has held for the local eatery. Banner photo, DONNA KAYLOR
LUV WATSON, center, a 37-year server at Old Fort Restaurant on 25th Street, finishes up on an order at the end of a meal for customers Dax and Brittany McGowan. In her long career at Old Fort, waiting on tables is the only job Watson has held for the local eatery. Banner photo, DONNA KAYLOR
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­Bradley County’s good news in unemployment is the rate didn’t go up in October; the bad news is it didn’t go down, either.

Still at 7.6 percent, the jobless mark in Bradley is one of 17 county rates across Tennessee to remain unchanged from the September figure. Yet, in perspective, the local jobs report is more positive than negative because statewide, 64 of 95 counties saw unemployment increases.

Only 14 counties reported jobless rate drops, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

The October mark places Bradley County in a five-way tie for the 25th-lowest jobless rate in Tennessee. Other counties sharing the 7.6 tally are Carter, DeKalb, Moore and Union. The local rate compares favorably to the Tennessee mark of 8.2 percent, and the national rate is 7.9 percent.

Although local hiring saw an expected dip in tourism, which is labeled as Leisure & Hospitality on the state employment charts, other industries like manufacturing, construction, temporary services and retail trade remained stable, according to Larry Green, labor market analyst who monitors Bradley County.

One small hiring increase locally came in local government which refers to public school systems.

The fact that retail trade remained stable could be a good sign for the rest of the year, Green explained.

“Retail trade being stable in October means that probably we will see an increase in November employment,” Green said. “That should help the unemployment rate.”

In past years, retail trade hiring always increased beginning in October; however, that trend has slowed the last couple of years because more retail employers are waiting until November to bring aboard seasonal help, Green reported last month and again Monday. In some cases, existing employees are being given additional hours so this also slows the pre-Christmas hiring rush.

If retail trade hiring does pick up, it should drop Bradley County’s jobless mark in November and December. In January, when the demand for seasonal workers slows, the unemployment rate likely will rise again, Green cited.

“[We expect] to see an increase in retail trade in November,” Green noted. “The rest of the industries are stable. Sometimes we’ll see a slight decrease in construction, but with as much commercial construction as we have right now in Bradley County ... it might not be. We don’t really know what to expect except that it (construction) has been strong all year.”

Even the weather in October and November was favorable to the construction industry which is another reason Green believes the next jobless report for Bradley County could be even more encouraging.

“On the whole, 7.6 is very good, particularly compared to some of the surrounding counties,” he said.

Another reason for optimism is the year-to-year comparison. In October 2011, the Bradley County jobless mark was 8.2 percent.

“We’ve had some good improvement in our unemployment rate,” Green said. “That (7.6 percent) is significant. It is pretty good.”

Another reason for Green’s optimism is the local rate’s closeness to Hamilton County. The much larger metro area traditionally has the lowest mark in Southeast Tennessee. For October, Hamilton sat at 7.3, only three-tenths of one percentage point below Bradley County.

The Bradley rate is based on a total reported labor force of 46,870. Of this total, 43,290 reported having jobs whether they are full- or part-time. This leaves a workless balance of 3,580.

Some of Bradley County’s neighbors reported these October fluctuations: Hamilton County, 7.3, an increase from 7.1 in September; Marion, 8.2, a drop from 8.3; McMinn, 9.2, an increase from 9.0; Meigs, 9.8, a drop from 9.9; Monroe, 10.8, a hike from 10.6; Polk, 9.3, up from 9.2; and Rhea, 9.9, an increase from 9.7.

Across the state, the jobless rate ranges from 5 to 9.9 percent in 66 counties, and it is 10 percent or higher in 29 counties.

Tennessee’s lowest unemployment marks include Lincoln County, 5.1 percent; Williamson, 5.2; Knox, 5.9; Rutherford, 6.1; Blount, 6.2; Wilson, 6.3; Davidson, Sumner and Washington, 6.5; and Sullivan, 6.6 percent.

Tennessee’s highest jobless rates include Scott County, 16.4 percent; Obion, 13.8; Fayette, 13.6; Lauderdale, 12.9; Weakley, 12.5; Dyer and Perry, 11.8; Hardeman and Gibson, 11.6; and Lawrence, 11.4 percent.

In cities with populations of more than 25,000 (excluding their county perimeters) — including Cleveland whose October rate is 7.9 percent — a few include: Bristol, 6.2 percent; Chattanooga, 8.3; Clarksville, 8.1; Collierville, 7.5; Columbia, 9.5; Cookeville, 6.7; Franklin, 5.2; Gallatin, 7.1; Jackson, 8.8; Johnson City, 6.4; Kingsport, 7.3; Knoxville, 7.1; Maryville, 6.7; Memphis, 9.7; Murfreesboro, 6.5; Nashville, 6.5; and Oak Ridge, 7.1.