Friday, October 23, 2009

Jobless rate dips in most of Tennessee

Brighter economic news and unemployment rates that have leveled off may be signs the country is in recovery, but it sure doesn't seem that way to some job hunters in Nashville.
"It's a dog-eat-dog world with so many people looking for jobs," said Michael Ivey, 34, an HVAC maintenance worker who was at a new computer lab at the Edmondson Pike Library for online job hunting on Thursday.

Ivey has found himself competing with engineers for maintenance jobs and now has to wear a suit and tie to impress at interviews when in the past jeans and T-shirts were good enough, he said.

New figures show that 73 of Tennessee's 95 counties had double-digit unemployment rates in September, a slight improvement from August when 82 counties were at 10 percent or higher.

The highest rate was in Lauderdale County in rural West Tennessee at 18.9 percent, according to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Williamson County had the second- lowest rate at 7.5 percent. Lincoln County had the lowest rate at 6.9 percent.

Meanwhile, the number of newly laid-off workers filing claims for jobless benefits nationally rose more than expected last week, as employers remain reluctant to hire even with the economy showing signs of improvement. Claims had fallen in five of the previous six weeks and most economists expect that trend to continue, but at a slow pace, as jobs remain scarce.

The state unemployment rate came in at 10.5 percent for September, down from a month ago when it was 10.7 percent but higher than the national rate of 9.8 percent. A year ago the state jobless rate was 6.9 percent.

The rate worsened in 11 counties, improved in 83 counties and was unchanged in one county.

Conditions for embattled Perry County, which for months has had the worst rates statewide, appear to have improved, although it still has the sixth-highest rate at 17.6 percent. A job-creation program funded by the federal stimulus brought more than 300 jobs to the area.

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