Tennessee Feels Loss of 4,700 Construction Jobs

Fri January 16, 2004 - Southeast Edition

NASHVILLE, TN (AP) Tennessee is still losing jobs even as the national unemployment rate is dropping.

The state’s unemployment rate in November was 5.7 percent –– the highest level since 1997.

The two hardest hit sectors are manufacturing and construction, which have lost 6,900 and 4,700 jobs, respectively, since November 2002. Transportation and warehousing also had heavy losses with 4,000 jobs.

“Our numbers have been pretty consistent,” said state Labor Commissioner James Neely. “Our economy in Tennessee is lagging behind the national economy as far as growth is concerned.”

The state’s unemployment rate is still lower than the 5.9 percent national rate, but the gap has narrowed significantly since November 2002. That month, the state rate was 4.3 percent compared to the national rate of 6 percent.

Since June, Tennessee’s unemployment rate increased four-tenths of a percentage point while the national rate decreased five-tenths of a percentage point.

Neely said highway and other construction has slowed and several large plants have closed or laid off workers. Rural areas of the state have been hit especially hard with large plants in Sevier, Hancock, Lewis and other counties closing.

But losses in manufacturing and construction have been offset by gains in education and health services with 8,900 new jobs, and in the administrative, support and waste management sector with 4,600.

Neely said Tennessee actually had a net gain in jobs last year. While 13,093 jobs were lost as of mid-December, 19,959 new jobs were announced as of Nov. 1 because of expansions or new business openings. However, some of those jobs will be filled this year of later.