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Unemployment rate among state’s highest at 15.3 percent

Unemployment rate among state’s highest at 15.3 percent
From AP, staff reports
For the fifth consecutive month, Obion County’s unemployment rate ranked among the highest in the state at 15.3 percent.
The state Department of Labor and Workforce Development on Thursday released its county-by-county unemployment figures for December 2011. Of the 10 counties with the highest December jobless rates in the state, four were located in West Tennessee — Obion, Weakley, Lauderdale and Haywood counties.
Obion County’s unemployment rate was unchanged from November to December, according to the state jobless report.
The December jobless rate decreased in 56 counties, increased in 27 counties and remained unchanged in 12 counties across the state.
Scott County had the highest jobless rate in the state in December at 18.8 percent, followed by Obion County.
The local jobless rate spiked to 16.6 percent in August 2011, due primarily to the dramatic closure of the Union City Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. plant.
Goodyear was Obion County’s largest employer with more than 1,800 workers employed at the plant. The local tire plant was also one of the area’s largest employers and the plant’s closure has had a major economic impact on the entire region.
In 2010, Obion County’s jobless rate never went above 10.6 percent and for the year the county’s average jobless rate was 9.85 percent.
This past year, the county’s jobless rate was higher than 10.6 percent for seven months out of the year. The county’s unemployment rate hit 16.6 percent in August and never went below 15 percent for the remainder of the year. Obion County’s average jobless rate for 2011 was 12.73 percent.
The county’s December jobless rate translates to 2,330 people unemployed during the month.
Elsewhere across northwest Tennessee, other counties and their December unemployment rates were:
• Weakley County — 12.1 percent
• Lake County — 10.5 percent
• Dyer County — 11.8 percent
• Gibson County — 11.9 percent
Tennessee’s unemployment rate for December 2011 fell to 8.7 percent, down from the November 2011 revised rate of 9.1, state Commissioner of Labor & Workforce Development Karla Davis announced last week. The national unemployment rate for December 2011 was 8.5 percent, a decrease of 0.2 percentage point from the November rate.
 “This is the lowest unemployment rate Tennessee has experienced since December 2008 when the rate was 8.4 percent,” Commissioner Davis said. “The drop in Tennessee’s rate is largely due to a notable increase of 11,200 employed persons from November to December.”
 University of Tennessee economist Bill Fox reported the Tennessee rate parallels the national picture.
“The drop in Tennessee’s unemployment rate mirrors what is happening nationally, but Tennessee has had much stronger employment growth,” Fox is quoted as saying on the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development website.
The unemployment rate fell in two-thirds of U.S. states last month, evidence that recent modest improvements in the job market have benefited most regions of the country.
The Labor Department said that unemployment fell in 37 states in December, rose in three and remained unchanged in 10. That’s similar to November, when joblessness declined in 43 states, and October, when it dropped in 36.
The three states that reported increases were Hawaii, New Mexico and Rhode Island. Nevada posted the highest unemployment rate, at 12.6 percent, followed by California’s 11.1 percent. North Dakota had the lowest rate, at 3.3 percent.
Last month, 25 states reported an increase in total jobs, while 24 states said they lost jobs.
The figures are different than the unemployment rates because rates can fall even if a state doesn’t add new jobs. Unemployed workers who give up on their job searches, for example, are no longer counted as unemployed, thereby reducing the rate.
Nationwide, employers added 200,000 jobs in December and the country’s unemployment rate fell for the fourth straight month to 8.5 percent.
Hiring picked up toward the end of 2011 as the economy improved. Analysts expect the economy expanded at an annual rate of about 3 percent in the October-December quarter, up from an anemic 0.9 percent pace in the first six months of last year.
Published in The Messenger 1.27.12

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