Although seasonal trends suggested it would happen, Bradley County’s upward tilt in unemployment to 7 percent in June might have been a little loftier than labor market analysts wanted.
But still, it’s a matter of perspective.
“We’ve known it would go up in June,” said Larry Green, labor market analyst for the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development who keeps a finger on Bradley County’s employment pulse. “But you never know how much.”
He added, “It just seems greater this time because the rate had gotten so low. We started off [prior to June] at a lower rate as compared to last year.”
In April, Bradley County’s jobless number was only 5.1 percent. Apparently fueled by layoffs in neighboring counties that impacted Cleveland commuters, the local jobless rate jumped to 5.8 in May.
And in June, when nonteaching personnel in area school systems filed for unemployment benefits for the summer, it was little surprise when the jobless rate jumped again, this time to a flat 7 percent.
But all things in perspective, Green reminded.
In June 2013, Bradley County’s unemployment mark was 8.5 percent, a full 1 1/2 percentage points above the current rate. Suddenly, the 7 percent doesn’t sound so bad after all, even naysayers might agree.
Green said the rise in local joblessness looks bad based on numbers alone. But consider this. In Bradley County, all other major employment categories saw slight increases in hiring. Manufacturing went up. Construction went up. Leisure and hospitality (tourism) went up. Only the temporary services industry (staffing) saw a slight decline.
“The big [employment loss], and it’s seasonal and is to be expected, is the nonteaching personnel coming off the employment rolls,” Green said.
In the face of Bradley County’s misfortune comes this familiar anecdote, “... Misery loves company.” That’s a reference to Tennessee’s other 94 counties. Unemployment rates for June increased in all 94 ... 95 including Bradley.
Statewide, the jobless rate ranged from 5 to 9.9 percent in 78 counties and was 10 percent or higher in 17. No counties reported unemployment marks of 4.9 percent or less, or 20 percent or more.
Tennessee’s overall rate for June came in at 6.6 percent and the U.S. ledger was 6.1 percent.
Although Bradley County exceeded both state and national figures, the local community continued to outlast its Southeast Tennessee neighbors in gainful jobs. And once again, Bradley’s mark bettered the larger Hamilton County market whose jobless number settled on 7.2, up from 6.2 in May.
The rates in other Bradley County neighboring jurisdictions included Marion, 8.2, up from 7.5 percent; McMinn, 8.2, up from 7; Meigs, 9, up from 7.7; Monroe, 8.9, up from 7.7; Polk, 7.5, up from 6.5; and Rhea, 9.6, up from 7.9.
Bradley County’s unemployment rate registered it in a three-way tie with Anderson and Washington counties as the 18th lowest mark in Tennessee.
“Most of the counties surrounding Bradley were significantly higher,” Green explained. Of Bradley County’s big brother to the west, he added, “Any time Bradley County is under Hamilton’s rate, I’d feel like that was a good month [for Bradley].”
So what’s on the horizon?
For those who believe in seasonal trends — and most labor market analysts agree they’re the most reliable indicators — the month of July in Bradley County should be relatively stable with an ever-so-slight tilt in either direction — up or down, Green suggested.
However, when nonteaching personnel return to their jobs in August, the unemployment rate should resume its slow spiral downward — one whose momentum normally increases as the autumn months yield to the pre-Christmas hiring in retail trade, he added.
“I don’t see any reasons why we shouldn’t follow our seasonal trend in July and then into August,” Green said. “Of course, you never really know ... because Bradley County [like most counties] is influenced by the counties around it. But I can see nothing that will change in July or August that would affect [the trend].”
He added, “I expect [the unemployment rate] will decline in August.”
Across the state in June, counties reporting the lowest unemployment rates were Lincoln County, 5.2 percent; Williamson, 5.4; Wilson, 5.8; Sumner, 5.9; Davidson and Rutherford, 6; Robertson and Cheatham, 6.1; and Knox and Blount, 6.3.
Counties recording the highest jobless numbers included Scott County, 14.2; Hancock, 12; Lauderdale, 11.8 Weakley, 11.7; Wayne, 11; Gibson and Perry, 10.8; Pickett, 10.7; and McNairy and Lawrence, 10.4.