For the first time in a decade, Scott County's unemployment rate is no longer ranked among the 10 highest in the State of Tennessee.
The local jobless rate fell sharply in February, dropping more than two percentage points, from 9.5 percent to 7.4 percent, according to figures released Thursday by the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development.
While each of Tennessee's 95 counties saw unemployment rates decrease in February, few of them saw a decline as pronounced as Scott County's. Only Wayne County, which dropped 2.4 percent, and Lake County, which dropped 2.7 percent, saw their unemployment rates decline at a faster rate in February.
Scott County's jobless rate of 7.4 percent is based on an estimated local work force of 7,880, of which 7,300 were employed during the month of February. Some 580 local workers were without jobs in February.
Total employment in Scott County increased by only 20 jobs in February, up from 7,280 in January. However, the number of unemployed workers dropped from 760 to 580, as the state adjusted the estimated local work force downward from 8,040 to 7,880. That was a trend that was seen across the state.
Among adjoining counties, Anderson County saw its unemployment rate decrease seven-tenths of a point to 5.1 percent, Campbell County was down 1.2 percentage points to 7.3 percent, Fentress County dropped eight-tenths of a point to 6.0 percent, Morgan County was down 1.7 points to 6.4 percent, and Pickett County was down 1.1 points to 7.1 percent.
While Scott County continues to have the highest unemployment rate in the region, the local jobless rate is no longer one of the state's top 10, missing that list by a tenth of a percentage point. Rhea County had the highest unemployment rate in February, at 8.8 percent, followed by Cocke County at 8.7 percent, Sevier County at 8.6 percent, and Lake County at 8.5 percent. Jackson County's unemployment rate was 7.9 percent, followed by Houston County at 7.8 percent and Hancock County at 7.7 percent. Bledsoe, Lauderdale and Stewart counties each posted unemployment rates of 7.5 percent in February.
Williamson County continued to show the way with the state's lowest unemployment rate, at 3.5 percent, followed by Davidson County at 3.6 percent and Rutherford County at 3.7 percent. Wilson, Sumner and Moore counties each posted unemployment rates of 3.9 percent. Rounding out the 10 lowest unemployment rates in February were Maury County at 4.0 percent, Knox and Robertson counties at 4.1 percent, and Cheatham County at 4.2 percent.
Scott County was last outside the state's top 10 counties for joblessness in 2007, before the start of the Great Recession. That year, unemployment began to surge, going from 6.7 percent in December 2006 to 10.4 percent by February 2008. The jobless rate continued to climb in the years that followed, reaching 18 percent by January 2009 and eventually topping out at 23.4 percent in January 2011. During that stretch, Scott County spent a record length of time with the state's top unemployment rate.
In recent years, the jobless rate has recovered, as the number of working Scott Countians has climbed from a low of fewer than 6,600 to the current mark of 7,300.
The number of working Scott Countians is expected to continue to climb in the months ahead. Big South Fork Medical Center is currently hiring, and is expected to top out at nearly 100 employees. Among local industry, Takahata and Tennier are currently undergoing hiring sprees.