Scott County’s jobless rate has dropped to its lowest point in 16 years, according to a new round of employment data released last week by the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development.
The new numbers show that Scott County’s unemployment rate was 5.5 percent in April, down sharply from March’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate of 6.7 percent. The reduced jobless rate came as the number of working Scott Countians continues to increase, with about 30 jobs added between March and April.
But the overall economic picture remains mixed, despite the positive news, and Scott County once again has one of the state’s 10 highest unemployment rates, after one month off the chart.
According to the state’s data, the local work force was estimated at 7,840 in April, of which 7,410 were employed and 430 were without work. In March, it was estimated that there were 7,380 working Scott Countians.
But while the number of local workers counted as unemployed has dropped to its lowest point since recession began nearly a decade ago, that’s at least partially due to local residents dropping out of the work force. Scott County’s estimated work force dropped from 7,910 to 7,840 between March and April, and is down from 8,020 at the same point last year.
While employment is increasing, those numbers also lag behind where they were a year ago. In April 2016, the state estimated that 7,520 Scott Countians were working.
Still, the last time unemployment was this low was in May 2001, when the jobless rate was at a historically low 3.9 percent. One month later, it jumped substantially to 7.9 percent. It skyrocketed to double-digits after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and has seldom dropped below six percent since. It was briefly below that mark in May 2016, dropping to 5.8 percent, but climbed over the remainder of the year.
Likewise, the jobless rate can be expected to increase this summer, as graduating seniors enter the work force.
In May 2001, when local unemployment dropped to 3.9 percent, the work force was estimated at 8,970, with 8,200 Scott Countians employed.
Scott County’s current jobless rate is among the state’s 10 highest, despite the month-over-month decrease. Rhea County posted the state’s highest unemployment rate, at 6.6 percent, followed by Lauderdale County at 6.0 percent. Rounding out the Top 5 highest unemployment rates were Cocke County at 5.9 percent, Jackson County at 5.8 percent and Bledsoe County at 5.7 percent. The next five included Houston, Hancock and Scott counties, each at 5.5 percent, followed by Stewart and Obion counties, at 5.4 percent.
Williamson County continued to post the state’s lowest unemployment rate, at 2.6 percent, followed by Davidson County, at 2.7 percent. Rutherford, Wilson and Sumner counties each posted unemployment rates of 2.9 percent in April. Rounding out the 10 lowest unemployment rates were Moore and Maury counties, at 3.0 percent, and Cheatham, Lincoln and Giles counties, at 3.1 percent.
Across the local region, Anderson County continued to post the lowest unemployment rate, at 3.8 percent, down from 5.0 percent in March. That was followed by Fentress County’s 4.5 percent, down from 5.4 percent in March. Pickett County saw its unemployment rate drop to 4.6 percent in April, down from 6.3 percent in March. Morgan County’s unemployment rate was 5.2 percent, down from 6.0 percent, while Campbell County’s unemployment rate was 5.3 percent, down from 6.9 percent.
Among major metropolitan areas, Nashville posted the lowest unemployment rate, at 2.9 percent, followed by Knoxville’s 3.5 percent, Chattanooga’s 3.8 percent and Memphis’s 4.2 percent.
“While we still have work to do, it is clear Tennessee is making progress in putting people to work,” said Department of Labor & Workforce Development Commissioner Burns Phillips, pointing out that one year ago there were eight counties with an unemployment rate above six percent, while only two counties in the state currently have unemployment rates above six percent.