Call it a sign of Thanksgiving or an early Christmas gift, but Bradley County’s unemployment rate in October inched near an all-time record low for the month, falling just shy of the mark by one-tenth of 1%.
At 3.2%, the figure almost tied the county’s October best which was set 19 years ago at 3.1%, according to reports from the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
Patrick Todd, statistical analyst supervisor for the state department, told the Cleveland Daily Banner it could be considered a good sign of the times. Bradley County’s all-time low jobless tally for all months is 2.8%, tied just six months ago in April.
“The rate should go down some again in November,” Todd said. “The normal drop [based on seasonal trends] would be about one-half percent of a point.”
If that happens, the 3.2% amount could conceivably drop to 2.7% which would establish a new all-time record low for Bradley County; however, that’s just hypothetical based on traditional rate decreases from October to November, Todd stressed.
“Bradley County has had a consistently low unemployment rate [in recent years],” he said. “It has looked good for a long while, especially the last couple of years.”
Statistically, there’s more reason to be thankful.
“Bradley County’s unemployment rate has not been over 5% since July 2016,” Todd noted. “And, Bradley just missed tying its October record that was set in 2000.”
The October mark puts Bradley in a four-way tie for Tennessee’s 22nd lowest. Sharing the rank are Chester, Franklin and Hickman counties.
Bradley County remains in good standing compared to other Southeast Tennessee counties, and boasts the region’s second lowest rate behind only the metropolitan area of Chattanooga and Hamilton County which finished October with a 3% mark.
Hamilton’s rate from September to October remained unchanged.
Among some of Bradley County’s other neighbors, rates included McMinn, 3.4%, down from 3.5% in September; Meigs, 3.7%, down from 3.8%; Monroe, 3.4%, up from 3.2%; Polk, 3.5%, down from 3.8%; and Rhea, 4.6%, down from 5%.
The Bradley County mark is still trending lower than this time of year in 2018. Last October, the Bradley jobless tally landed at 3.4%.
The 3.2% mark for Bradley, which is not seasonally adjusted, ties the state mark and falls just under the national figure of 3.3%. Seasonally adjusted, the Tennessee rate for October was 3.4% and the national mark was 3.6%.
Seasonal adjustments are based on a formula used by the U.S. Department of Labor and Workforce Development to remove factors like holidays, routine company shutdowns and weather conditions, among others, that might influence unemployment. State and national rates are seasonally adjusted. County rates are not.
With a reported labor force of 51,314, and with 49,679 having jobs — whether full or part-time — Bradley County recorded only 1,635 adults without work.
Locally, the professional and business services category — which incorporates a large temporary staffing presence — bolstered the employment outlook with 400 new hires, Todd explained.
Leisure and hospitality — which is the tourism category featuring employers like recreation, hotels/motels and restaurants — dropped 100 from its workforce, as did manufacturing.
Construction, traditionally a seasonal strength in the summer months when building and development are at their zenith, recorded no changes from September to October, Todd noted.
“Most categories were unchanged in October,” he said.
That is expected to change in retail trade which saw no additional hiring last month. In November, retailers traditionally start beefing up their sales floor staffs which equates to lower unemployment rates … assuming other categories like construction and manufacturing don’t falter significantly, he noted.
Although Bradley County enjoyed the October drop in joblessness, the news wasn’t so good statewide. In Tennessee, the jobless rate increased in 33 counties and remained the same in 24. Drops were recorded in 38 counties.
The fluctuation most affected Middle Tennessee. One example came in Maury County (Columbia), whose unemployment more than doubled, causing the county to have the second-highest rate in the state. It spiked 3.4 percentage points, going from 2.6% in September to 6% in October.
The inconsistencies caught the eye of TDLWD Commissioner Jeff McCord.
“Many different factors impact a county’s employment situation,” the state official said. “The vast majority of Tennessee’s counties had continued low unemployment in October. The ebb and flow of the statistics in several areas will likely return to more typical numbers in the coming months.”
Statewide, the jobless rate in October stayed below 5% in 85 counties. It ranged from 5% to 8% in 11.
For the month, Tennessee counties recording the lowest jobless rates included Williamson, Davidson and Cheatham counties, 2.3%; Sevier and Rutherford, 2.4%; Sumner and Wilson, 2.5%; and Robertson, Knox and Trousdale, 2.6%.
Counties facing the state’s highest rates were Perry, 8%; Maury, 6%; Decatur, 5.9%; Lewis, 5.8%; Hancock, 5.5%; Clay, 5.2%; Hardeman and DeKalb, 5.1%; and Marshall and Lauderdale, 5%.
Heading into the holiday shopping season, the month of December traditionally boasts the year’s lowest unemployment rates because of hiring increases in retail trade. Once temporary jobs are phased out, the rates begin to increase, and this normally starts in January.
The November unemployment rate report for Tennessee counties will be released Dec. 19.