Nonteaching personnel returning to the payrolls with the opening of schools, combined with healthy increases in construction and temporary services, helped to dip Bradley County’s unemployment rate to below 8 percent for the month of August.
At 7.9, the local jobless mark represents a drop of two-tenths of 1 percent, and retains Bradley County’s status as having the lowest unemployment figure in Southeast Tennessee. The county’s jobless tally in July was 8.1.
Statewide, the Bradley County mark rests in a two-way tie with Union County as the 21st lowest unemployment rate out of 95 counties.
The latest rate is only slightly higher than this time last year. The jobless mark in August 2012 was 7.8 percent, according to Larry Green, labor market analyst for the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
Bradley County fared well against the state unemployment rate in August which was tagged at 8.5 percent; however, the national mark was only 7.3.
“We had this anticipated drop [in unemployment] for August because of the nonteaching personnel returning to the local school systems,” Green said. “That’s pretty much the trend. It did not catch anybody by surprise to see it go down.”
However, some other fluctuations — some good ones — also contributed to the decline in Bradley County’s rate.
“Bradley County had an increase in construction employment,” Green said. “[The county] had its largest increase, other than in local government (which is the category that includes public education), in temporary services. We saw a nice boost in temp services.”
Not only did public education see increased hiring, but the same was true in private education and nursing homes, a category that is recognized on state employment rolls as “Education and Health Services.”
For the most part, the jobs news in August was good for Bradley County; however, it did come with a little dose of bad, Green explained.
“Bradley County did have some declines to offset the gains,” he noted. “Manufacturing was down, not by a great amount but it did decline, as did retail trade.”
A small decline was picked up as well in Leisure & Hospitality (tourism), but this simply pointed to the winding down of summer, Green noted. With the end of travel season, a slight impact was observed in area hotels and restaurants.
Although its jobs categories saw some ups and downs, Bradley County fared well compared to its neighbors. A few surrounding counties, and their rates, included: Hamilton County, 8.2 percent, down from 8.5; Marion, 8.8, down from 8.9; McMinn, 9.2, down from 9.4; McMinn, 9.2, down from 9.4; Meigs, 9.6, down from 10.2; Monroe, 10.5, down from 11.5; Polk, 8.7, up from 8.6; and Rhea County, 11.2, down from 11.9 percent.
Statewide, the jobless rate decreased in 77 counties, increased in nine and remained unchanged in nine.
The unemployment mark ranged from 5 to 9.9 percent in 62 counties, and 10 percent or higher in 33. No counties had rates less than 5 percent or higher than 20 percent.
Tennessee counties with the lowest unemployment rates in August included Lincoln County, 5.9 percent; Williamson, 6; Wilson, 6.5; Robertson and Cheatham, 6.6; Blount, Sumner and Rutherford, 6.8; Davidson, 6.9; and Knox County, 7 percent.
Tennessee counties with the highest jobless marks included Scott County, 16.2; Lauderdale, 13.6; Weakley, 13.1; Hancock and Gibson, 12.5; Carroll, 12.1; Lawrence and Haywood, 11.9; Pickett, 11.8; and Henderson County, 11.7.
“Bradley County had the lowest [rate] of all the area counties,” Green said. “That’s a good indication that Bradley County is pretty well balanced [in numbers of manufacturing and nonmanufacturing types of jobs].”
He added, “Bradley County is in relatively good shape compared to surrounding counties and to the state as a whole.”
Of the increased hiring in temporary services, Green said he does not have a record of which companies are doing the hiring. Traditionally, temporary or staffing services, operate on contracts with employers. When some area companies have personnel needs, they rely on a contracted staffing service to interview and hire job applicants.
“Obviously, some area companies were doing some hiring,” Green said of its favorable impact on the August rate.
Looking ahead, he said September is normally stable. Traditionally, the September mark is comparable to August, Green noted.
Holiday hiring in retail trade could start as early as late October or in November. Once this occurs, Bradley County’s jobless mark traditionally takes another dip before rising again in January and February.