Area County Unemployment
Dade, 6.3 percent
Catoosa, 6.7 percent
Hamilton, 7.4 percent
Walker, 7.5 percent
Polk, 12.7 percent
Rhea, 12.1 percent
Whitfield, 11.3 percent
Meigs, 11.3 percent
Sources: Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Georgia Department of Labor
Unemployment in the Chattanooga area fell to the lowest level in three years in November led by job gains south of the border.
The Georgia Department of Labor reported Thursday that unemployment in Dade County fell to 6.3 percent-the second-lowest rate among Georgia's 159 counties-while Catoosa County's jobless rate dipped to only 6.7 percent and Walker County's jobless rate dipped to 7.5 percent. Employment in the North Georgia counties in Chattanooga's metropolitan area grew at a healthy 3.1 percent pace over the past year.
Natonwide, employment is up 1.2 percent in the past year and November's jobless rate for the U.S. as a whole was 8.6 percent.
"We haven't had any major new industry come to Dade County, but we're working on that and hope we can get something in 2012," said Ted Rumley, Dade County's executive. "A lot of people are back to work now, although many are working for less pay than they used to receive."
The drop in joblessness in Dade County comes two years after the county's biggest employer-the Shaw Industries' Trenton spinning mill-shut down and eliminated 430 jobs.
The prolonged housing slump has claimed other carpet industry jobs and helped keep unemployment in the self-described carpet capital of the world in Dalton at the highest rate among Georgia's 14 metro areas.
In November unemployment declined in metro Dalton to 11.8 percent. But over the past year, metro Dalton still lost 3,400 jobs, or 5.1 percent of its employment.
In Southeast Tennessee, however, most counties showed job gains and lower unemployment rates in the past year. Hamilton County boasted the lowest jobless rate at 7.4 percent in November, the county's lowest level since December 2008, according to figures released by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
"I do think the job market is getting better and there are more opportunities," said Steven Hodge, a school bus driver who was filing for unemployment benefits Thursday during the three-week long shutdown of local schools. "I'm hoping to find something and my sister who had been unemployed for two years just landed a job with Amazon."
Dr. Bill Fox, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee, said Tennessee's manufacturing-based economy is rebounding faster than the U.S. average. But he still expects only "slow, modest growth" in jobs over the next year.
"The November numbers were very encouraging, but we still have a long way to go to get back to where we were before the recession," he said.