published Friday, August 26th, 2011

Area jobless figures mixed

DALTON, Ga. — Danny Cope’s 13 staff members at the Georgia Department of Labor’s Dalton Career Center had an easy day Thursday, said Cope, the career center’s manager.

Wait times were down to half an hour, and the few dozen unemployed workers in the queue moved through briskly compared to the throngs packed into the room on most days.

“Mondays and Tuesdays — it’s packed,” Cope said.

Unemployment in Metro Dalton in July rose to 12.5 percent, up 0.8 percent over July 2010. That is a measure of the ripple effect from the national housing crisis that weighed heavily on the city’s predominant industry: carpetmakers.

But Sheila Epperson, a former chiropractor’s assistant who came to Cope’s office Thursday in search of a job, couldn’t have cared less about carpet, housing or even Dalton.

“I’ll take whatever I can take,” she said.

The mother of three was denied unemployment benefits, so she’s looking as far as Knoxville and Atlanta for a job.

“I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do,” Epperson said. “It’s hard to get a job at anything right now.”

But as unemployment in the Dalton area remains the highest of any of Georgia’s 14 metro areas, metropolitan Chattanooga continued to enjoy above-average job growth.

In the six-county Chattanooga metropolitan area, unemployment fell last month by 0.5 percent to 8.6 percent.

From July 2010 to July 2011, the metro area added 7,420 jobs, or more than 3.1 percent, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

The Scenic City’s jobless rate last month was still 0.1 percent above the year-ago rate because of the growth in the number of workers looking for jobs in the past year.

4-letter word: Jobs

Statewide in the past year, Tennessee added 55,000 jobs, or just under 2 percent.

But the 9.6 percent non-seasonally adjusted statewide rate in July was still up 0.2 percent from a year ago. Unemployment increased in metro Dalton to 12.5 percent, according to the Georgia Department of Labor.

Over the past year, employment in the Dalton area has added only 241 jobs, or less than 0.4 percent.

Jesus Quintero, a legal immigrant who spoke halting English as he waited to be seen by a career counselor in Dalton on Thursday, said the tough job market has had other effects besides unemployment.

Despite going to work every day, he said he’s been sent home a number of times because his employer, an area recycler, can’t afford to pay him every day.

He doesn’t know if he can collect unemployment benefits because he’s not technically unemployed, and he worries about feeding his wife and children.

“He told me that if I didn’t like it, I could quit,” Quintero said. “But I can’t quit. I have to take care of my family.”

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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