published Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Chattanooga area jobless rates rise in October

LOCAL JOB SCENE BY THE NUMBERS

• Wages: The average Tennessee worker was paid $713.30 a week in October, or 12.2 percent less than the U.S. average of $812.70.

• Unemployment: The jobless rate in October was 7.3 percent nationwide, 8.1 percent in Georgia and 8.4 percent in Tennessee

• Jobs: Employment grew from October 2012 to October 2013 by 0.2 percent nationwide and by 2.1 percent in Georgia. But the number of working Tennesseans fell by 2 percent in the same period.

Unemployment edged higher in October in most counties of Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia after dipping to or near 5-year lows in some area counties during September.

Joblessness remained below the U.S. average in the three Northwest Georgia counties in metropolitan Chattanooga — Catoosa, Dade and Walker counties. But all other counties in the Chattanooga region continued to have jobless rates above the U.S. average of 7.3 percent in October.

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development said Tennessee had an unexpected drop in employment from October 2012 to October 2013, with the Volunteer State shedding 56,400 jobs in the past year. Those job losses boosted the state’s jobless rate from 7.8 percent a year ago to 8.4 percent this fall, although some economists questioned those preliminary figures.

Conversely in Georgia, the state added a healthy 85,500 jobs in the past year, growing employment in the Peach State by 2.1 percent to the highest total since November 2008.

University of Tennessee Economist Bill Fox said employer and household surveys are showing differing patterns of job growth and the true employment picture may not be known until seasonal adjustments and final figures are compiled at the end of the year.

“Some of the survey data doesn’t seem to match up because we’re seeing signs of economic growth by all other indicators,” Fox said.

Unemployment remained highest in rural counties of Southeast Tennessee and in and around Dalton, Ga., where the carpet industry is rebounding but still struggling to regain most of the jobs lost during the housing slump.

Local hiring activity is picking up this fall with strong holiday hiring by Amazon and other retailers, who are adding several thousand seasonal jobs to stores and to staff Amazon fulfillment centers in Chattanooga and Cleveland, Tenn.

But Josh Mathley, a 30-year-old Red Bank resident who lost one of those Amazon jobs due to a medical condition, said Monday he is having a tough time finding another jobs.

“This time of the year is really rough to be out of work,” he said after visiting the Tennessee Career Center. “I liked the job and Amazon is a great place to work, but you only get so much time to be off for medical reasons and it can be kind of hard to deal with.”

Although jobs are being added, workers say employers are still being more selective in their hiring and many of the available positions require some collegiate training.

That’s why Donna Hammonds, who resides in Brainerd, is enrolling in Allied Medical School to become a certified medical coder.

“It’s the quickest way to get a check,” she said. “I’ve looked all over, but it’s hard to find a lot of openings. People stay in their jobs longer now, especially the better-paying jobs.”

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340.

about Dave Flessner...

Dave Flessner is the business editor for the Times Free Press. A journalist for 35 years, Dave has been business editor and projects editor for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, city editor for The Chattanooga Times, business and county reporter for the Chattanooga Times, correspondent for the Lansing State Journal and Ingham County News in Michigan, staff writer for the Hastings Daily Tribune in Nebraska, and news director for WCBN-FM in Michigan. Dave, a native ...

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