Unemployment is one such example. And it is one such number.
We first broached the subject Monday by looking at Bradley County’s latest jobless mark. For November, it is 6.8 percent, having dropped from 7.6 the month before on the strength of the retail trade hiring in preparation for the busy holiday shopping frenzy.
Obviously, the majority of the hiring, some of which continued into December, was for seasonal, part-time workers. This means most of the positions are temporary and will be phased out in January.
But Bradley County’s positive employment numbers are not all about seasonal temporary staffing in retail trade. The November report also points to other sectors.
One is a stable construction category that normally sees its numbers dwindle in winter. Locally, this could still happen in construction in January and February, but current indications point to continued building activity in Cleveland and Bradley.
We continue to witness growth in residential building — especially in apartment complexes and townhomes — and also in commercial. For any with doubt we would recommend viewing the latest building permit reports coming out of Cleveland City Hall and the Bradley County Courthouse.
Another reason to believe in the Cleveland area’s strengthening employment is that manufacturing numbers remain strong. No major industrial layoffs have been recorded in Bradley County for months, and from all indications worker numbers should remain stable for the foreseeable future.
Several weeks ago, an out-of-town opinionist asserted that Bradley County’s jobless rate was among the fastest rising in Tennessee. Our first reaction was to quote Scrooge with a resounding “Bah! Humbug!” But we held our tongue, recognizing that everyone has the right to an opinion.
What we will do is point to the numbers. While acknowledging the November jobs report is influenced by temporary, part-time hiring, we would recommend looking around. As we mentioned earlier, it is perspective.
For instance, Bradley County’s current jobless mark stands at 6.8, down from 7.6 in October. Here’s how a few of our neighbors are faring: Marion County, 7.7 percent, down from 8.2; McMinn, 8.3, down from 9.2; Meigs, 9 percent, down from 9.7; Monroe, 9.1, down from 10.8; Polk, 8.9, down from 9.3; and Rhea, 9.1, down from 9.9. Within our area, only Hamilton County’s jobless mark is less at 6.4 percent, down from 7.3.
By our calculations, Bradley County’s 6.8 places us in a two-way tie with Sequatchie County for the state’s 22nd lowest unemployment mark.
Even 6.8 percent is unacceptable. No one can argue this truth. Until every Bradley Countian, Tennessean and American who wants to work can work, any jobless percent is too high.
But it is all perspective.
Consider the state’s highest jobless rates: Scott County, 15.3 percent; Obion, 12.3; Lauderdale, 11.8; Pickett, 11.2; Weakley, 10.9; Perry, 10.8; Van Buren, 10.7; White and Dyer, 10.6; and Gibson, 10.3. It is conceivable that each of these jurisdictions would drool over a mark of 6.8.
Regardless of the new year, the economy stands to remain on America’s monitor. As the economy goes, so shall employment.
But perspective tells us times are getting better.
We have endured, and our Cleveland and Bradley County hometown will continue to do so.
We realize higher unemployment rates probably lurk just around the corner as seasonal jobs fizzle. But compared to many jurisdictions, we in this community have it good.
Our next Thanksgiving season is 11 months away.
But a sense of thanksgiving should not be relegated to just one day.