Bradley unemployment rate rises to 3.7%

By RICK NORTON
Posted 3/21/19

Unlike the prophetic lyrics of that old Blood, Sweat and Tears tune from 1968 — “what goes up must come down” — Bradley County’s unemployment rate in January did just the opposite.What went …

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Bradley unemployment rate rises to 3.7%

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Unlike the prophetic lyrics of that old Blood, Sweat and Tears tune from 1968 — “what goes up must come down” — Bradley County’s unemployment rate in January did just the opposite.

What went down in December to a jaw-dropping 2.9 percent, went back up a month later to 3.7.

But it wasn’t unexpected, nor was Bradley alone in the seasonal jobless ascent. All 95 Tennessee counties saw increased rates, according to latest numbers reported by the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Two traditional year-ending and year-beginning patterns held true: One, the community’s December figure closed 2018 tied for the year’s lowest unemployment rate, as it almost always does; and two, it went back up in January, as it almost always does.

Late-year hiring in retail trades is the conventional cause. By late October or early November, retailers start to shore up their sales floor staffs in anticipation of the holiday rush. Once the Christmas season closes, these part-time jobs fizzle and this creates the rise in joblessness each January.

At 3.7, Bradley finished in a five-way tie for the 25th lowest jobless mark in Tennessee. Sharing the mark were Bedford, Madison, Putnam and Washington counties.

Jeff McCord, TDLWD commissioner under the new Gov. Bill Lee administration, acknowledged the statewide hikes in unemployment, but offered some perspective; that being, compared to last year the 2019 numbers are still promising.

“Many counties did experience an uptick in unemployment in January,” he said. “But, when you look at a year-to-year comparison, the vast majority of Tennessee’s counties had lower unemployment this year compared to January of last year.”

McCord’s assessment holds true in Bradley County whose jobless mark last January landed at 3.9 percent.

The Bradley rate, which is not seasonally adjusted, compares favorably to the non-seasonally adjusted marks at both the state and national levels. Not seasonally adjusted, the U.S. rate in January was 4.4 percent, and the Tennessee figure was 3.7. 

However, once they are seasonally adjusted, the national rate for January stands at 4 percent, and the state mark is 3.3.

According to a TDLWC press release, “The statewide and national unemployment rates are seasonally adjusted to eliminate the influences of weather, holidays, the opening and closing of schools, and other recurring seasonal events from an economic time series.”

While state and national marks are seasonally adjusted each month, county numbers are not.

Although all 95 counties suffered jobless hikes, 67 recorded rates of less than 5 percent. The other 28 reported numbers ranging from 2.4 to 5.8 percent.

In the Southeast Tennessee region, Hamilton County regained its foothold as the unemployment rate leader. At 3.4 percent in January, Hamilton’s mark rose five-tenths of a point from 2.9 in December. Hamilton’s jobless rate a year ago came in at 3.8 percent.

Other neighbors sharing a border with Bradley County recorded the following rates: McMinn, 4.1, up from 3.5, but down from 4.8 a year ago; Meigs, 4.7, up from 4, but down 5.4 a year ago; Monroe, 3.8, up from 3.2, but down from 4.2 a year ago; Polk, 4.4, up from 3.5, but down from 5.2 a year ago; and Rhea, 6.7, up from 5.1, but down from 7.2 a year ago.

Although numbers rose statewide, McCord said a couple of counties neared double-digit (10 percent or more) unemployment, and that’s more of a concern.

“The unemployment numbers in Lake (9.3) and Obion (8.8) counties have our attention,” McCord stated. “We are meeting [soon] with our workforce development partners from across the state, and we will have an opportunity to talk about any particular issues in the northwest area that may have contributed to this spike in unemployment.”

For the last four months, Tennessee’s statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has remained at its record low of 3.3 percent, McCord pointed out. 

The state’s lowest unemployment rates in January were recorded in Williamson County, 2.4 percent; Davidson, 2.6; Rutherford, 2.7; Cheatham and Sumner, 2.8; Wilson, 2.9; Knox, Cannon and Moore, 3; and Macon, 3.1.

The state’s highest jobless marks were found in Lake County, 9.3; Obion, 8.8; Hancock, 7.3; Rhea, 6.7; Bledsoe, 6.6; Clay and Cocke, 6.2; Lauderdale, 6.1; Wayne, 5.9; and McNairy, 5.8.

In spite of the seasonal climb from December to January, McCord remained positive.

“We continue to see low unemployment levels in our state,” McCord said. “Job creators are investing, and we are continuing our efforts to ensure they have the qualified workforce necessary for their business to succeed.”

Lee, addressing his first unemployment report as Tennessee governor, took the high road also, and pointed to his administration’s commitment to workforce development.

“Tennessee continues to experience a strong economy with record low unemployment,” the first-year governor stressed. “It is our goal to build on this foundation with several initiatives outlined in the State of the State Address, including the GIVE Act which will help produce a highly skilled, high-demand workforce in Tennessee.”

Total nonfarm employment in Tennessee increased by 8,300 jobs from December to January, McCord advised. The largest increases occurred in accommodations/food services, administrative/support/waste services, and arts/entertainment/recreation, he noted.

“Over the last year, nonfarm employment across the state grew by 61,200 jobs,” the commissioner noted.


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