published Friday, August 23rd, 2013

Jobless rate up in Dalton, down in Chattanooga

Despite plans by major carpet companies to hire back hundreds of laid off workers, unemployment in metropolitan Dalton increased last month to the highest level since last winter.

The Georgia Department of Labor said Thursday that metro Dalton, which includes Whitfield and Murray counties in North Georgia, shed 600 jobs during July, boosting the local jobless rate up by 0.7 percent to 12.3 percent -- the highest rate among any metro area in Georgia or Tennessee. Dalton's rate last month was even higher than what it was a year ago despite the improved housing market over the past year.

But Dalton Mayor David Pennington said employers are hiring again and most of the major carpet companies conducted job fairs since the July jobless data was gathered.

"Carpet companies are using the Department of Labor to make sure they get enough qualified applicants for all the jobs they are creating," he said.

Despite the jump in joblessness in the Dalton area, the non-seasonally-adjusted jobless rate fell in most counties across Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia during July. Among the 19 counties in the Chattanooga region, unemployment declined last month in 12 counties, rose in four and was unchanged in three others.

In the six-county Chattanooga metropolitan area, unemployment fell in July by 0.2 percent to 8.4 percent. Chattanooga's jobless rate was below the statewide rate in Tennessee but remained above the comparable 7.7 percent U.S., rate during July.

"I think the unemployment rate is still trending down overall, although some of the continuing cuts in goverment jobs is slowing the recovery in jobs and higher interest rates may slow the pace of the recovery," said Dr. Bill Fox, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee.

Nationwide, the Labor Department reported Thursday that the fewest workers in more than five years applied for unemployment benefits over the past month. The number of claims in the month ended Aug. 17 declined to 330,500 a week on average, the lowest since November 2007.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.

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