Scott County’s unemployment rate plummeted to 4.2 percent in May, marking the first time the local jobless rate has been below five percent since 2001.

The latest unemployment rate is based on numbers released last week by the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development, which said the statewide unemployment rate in May was at its lowest point in about 20 years and beneath the national average of 4.3 percent.

At 4.2 percent, Scott County’s unemployment rate has nearly caught the state unemployment rate of 4.0 percent, and is beneath the national rate of 4.3 percent. While it is unclear how long it has been since Scott County’s jobless rate was below the national average, it is thought to have been at least 15 years.

Scott County was hit harder than most counties by the Great Recession that started in 2007, spending a record amount of time atop Tennessee’s county-by-county unemployment chart and ultimately topping out above 20 percent.

The local unemployment rate reached an historic low of 3.9 percent in May 2001, then jumped substantially to 7.9 percent the following month. It skyrocketed to double-digits in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and has seldom dropped below six percent since.

Scott County saw its unemployment rate drop from 5.5 percent in April to 4.2 percent in May by adding 70 jobs over the month, while shedding 30 unemployed workers from its work force. According to the state’s data, Scott County’s local work force was estimated at 7,810 in May, of which 7,480 were employed and 330 were without work. In April, the local work force was at 7,480, with 7,410 employed.

Despite the good news, Scott County’s unemployment rate remains the state’s tenth-highest, and there are far fewer Scott Countians gainfully employed now than there were when the jobless rate was last this low. In May 2001, the work force was estimated at 8,970, with 8,200 Scott Countians employed.

In a month that saw unemployment rates decrease in 94 of Tennessee’s 95 counties, Anderson County checked in with a jobless rate of just 3.0 percent, down from 3.8 percent, while the rest of the region saw its jobless picture improve as well. Campbell County’s unemployment rate decreased from 5.3 percent to 4.0 percent, while Fentress County’s unemployment rate dropped from 4.5 percent to 3.7 percent. Morgan County’s unemployment rate dropped from 5.2 percent to 3.8 percent, and Pickett County’s jobless rate was down from 4.5 percent to 4.2 percent.

Among major metropolitan areas, Nashville continued to show the way, with a May unemployment rate of 2.8 percent. That was followed by Knoxville’s 3.5 percent jobless rate, Chattanooga’s 3.8 percent jobless rate, and Memphis’s 4.2 percent jobless rate.

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