JANUARY UNEMPLOYMENT RATES
• Metro Chatanooga: 9.1 percent jobless rate, up from 8.3 in December
• Metro Cleveland: 10.3 percent jobless rate, up from 8.9 in December
• Metro Dalton: 13 percent jobless rate, up from 12.4 in December
Sitting at a small circular table, a phone book in her lap and a spiral-bound notebook with scribbles of company names in front of her, Lisa Haddock continues a tireless search for a job.
She sits within the Tennessee Career Center on Brainerd Road in hopes of finding work, worrying what will happen when her unemployment checks run out in two weeks. Since September, she’s lost her job, her house and gone through a divorce from her husband of 17 years.
“It’s horrible,” she said, bringing up a hand to shield the tears flowing down her face. “I’ve even thought about going on the side of the road with a sign that says, ‘Will work for job.’ I just want an honest payday and to be able to provide for myself.”
Thousands like Haddock are also searching for jobs, as the jobless rate ticked up in both Tennessee and Georgia in January, according to data released Thursday by each state’s labor department.
Georgia reached an all-time high of 10.4 percent unemployment for the second time since it first reached that level in January 2010, continuing a 40-consecutive-month trend exceeding the national rate, which was 9 percent in January and fell to 8.9 percent in February.
In Dalton, the January rate climbed another six-tenths of a percent to 13 percent — the highest rate among Georgia’s 14 metropolitan areas.
In Tennessee, January unemployment rose to 9.5 percent, up 0.1 from December.
Area decline for year
For the year, unemployment fell in the metropolitan Chattanooga area — which includes Hamilton, Marion and Sequatchie counties, as well as a portion of North Georgia — from 9.7 percent in January 2010 to 9.1 percent in January 2011. However, from December to January the non-seasonally adjusted rate was still up by eight tenths of a percent.
In Cleveland, Tenn., joblessness shot up 1.4 percent in January to 10.3 from 8.9 percent in December.
“Overall, the pattern of movement on a year-over-year basis is in the right direction,” said Matt Murray, professor of economics at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. “It’s a very positive trend.”
One of the people who has benefited from the positive trend is Capt. C. Walker, who was hired as a security guard in December for American Citadel Guard. After being out of work for close to a year, he was hired in a managerial position where he is now able to give others the opportunity for employment.
Earlier this week, he took a trip to the unemployment office in Brainerd to search for applicants to fill two spots, saying he’d hire someone right there if they had the proper credentials.
“In this economy, it’s just hard to get jobs,” Walker said. “That’s why I can sympathize.”
Applicant pool resurgence
But as the tides turn and job prospects improve, Murray said, a trend that seems to make no sense will likely take shape.
“When jobs start picking up, the unemployment rate will rise,” he said.
That’s because discouraged workers who are unemployed but no longer actively seeking employment aren’t considered part of the labor force. As the job market picks up, these people once again begin an active search for employment and are added to the total unemployment rate, he said.
Still, Murray said downward trends are a good sign for the economy.
“We’re moving in the right direction, and at a faster pace than anticipated,” he said.
Brittany Cofer is a business reporter who has been with the Chattanooga Times Free Press since January 2010. She previously worked as a general assignment Metro reporter. In the Business department, she covers banking, retail, tourism, consumer issues and green issues. Brittany is from Conyers, Ga., and spent two years at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga., before transferring to the University of Georgia. She graduated from the university’s Grady College of Journalism in December ...