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Tenn. jobless rate reaches 9.9 percent as of April

Tenn. jobless rate reaches 9.9 percent as of April

Posted: Friday, May 22, 2009 8:01 pm

Associated Press Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — Tennessee’s unemployment rate jumped to 9.9 percent in April, its highest level in 25 years, state officials said in a report released Thursday.
The jobless rate is .3 percentage point higher than it was in March and surpasses the national unemployment rate of 8.9 percent, according to a report from the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
A year ago, Tennessee’s rate for the month of April was 6.0 percent.
Even more troubling, the most recent unemployment rate has exceeded the state’s economic forecast. The Tennessee Business and Economic Outlook predicted the rate would reach 9.8 percent in early 2010. The outlook says the unemployment rate is the single best indicator of the projected path of the state economy.
The state has had more job losses in manufacturing, wholesale and retail distribution than the national average, said Commissioner of Labor & Workforce Development James Neeley.
The state’s manufacturing industry is down 40,500 jobs from April of last year. Trade transportation and utilities lost 28,900 jobs, and mining and construction decreased by 25,400 jobs.
“This environment, along with the reduction in goods consumption, has had a big impact on Tennessee’s economy,” Neeley said.
The last time the state’s unemployment rate reached 9.9 percent was March 1984, said department spokesman Jeff Hentschel. The highest unemployment rate for the state was 12.4 percent in December 1982.
There are about 301,800 unemployed people in Tennessee — up from nearly 292,300 in March. It’s the greatest number of unemployed people in Tennessee since the state began recording data in 1973, Hentschel said.
To keep up with increasing numbers of laid-off workers, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development is processing unemployment benefits applications in group sessions, has hired 50 temporary workers, increased the number of phone lines at its call center and has staff working overtime and weekends.
“And still we have seen tremendous demand on the system,” Hentschel said. The department receives about 12,000 new requests for benefits every week. The state sends nearly 160,000 weekly unemployment benefit checks to Tennesseans.
From March to April, 6,300 job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality; 1,100 in nondurable goods manufacturing; and 1,100 in retail trade, according to state labor figures.
Major employment decreases occurred in professional and business services, down by 1,800; educational and health services declined by 1,500 jobs; and wholesale trade decreased by 1,500.
Gov. Phil Bredesen told reporters on Thursday that the state is doing what it can to help those counties hardest hit by unemployment. Last week, he announced a plan that would bring 300 jobs to Perry County, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation at 25.4 percent, according to a March figure.
Bredesen said at the time that he believed the plan for Perry County can be a model to target high unemployment in other Tennessee counties.
“What we’re trying to do is … take a look at some of these places where people are particularly hard hit and see if we can’t do some very specific things above and beyond the normal to help, which is what we’re doing in Perry County.”
Associated Press Writer Lucas L. Johnson II in Nashville contributed to this report.

Published in The Messenger 5.22.09

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