Tennessee’s unemployment rate dropped to a preliminary 8.5% in August, according to data released by the state Department of Labor on Thursday.
This is a drop of 1.2 percentage points from July’s revised rate of 9.7%, reflecting a gradual recovery from the initial shock to the economy caused by the COVID-19 pandemic (the state’s preliminary July rate was initially reported as 9.5%).
August’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted rate is 7 percentage points lower than Tennessee’s historic high of 15.5% in April. The rate fell to 11% in May and dropped again to 9.6% in June, but these numbers remain far above the state’s jobless standing last year.
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In August 2019, Tennessee’s unemployment rate was 3.4%. Rates hovered between 3.3% and 3.4% January through March of this year before the state’s economy felt the full impact of pandemic-related closures.
Tennessee currently has 142,600 fewer jobs available across the state as it did in August 2019, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The hospitality and leisure sector — among the state’s largest industries — has consistently seen the most job loss since March.
Jobs in manufacturing and the business services sector have also consistently evaporated during the pandemic.
But falling unemployment rates indicate more jobs are being created — between July and August, 22,600 new nonfarm jobs opened in Tennessee. August saw the most job growth in administrative/support services, waste services, and the federal and local government sectors. About 219,000 job openings are posted on Tennessee’s workforce development website, Jobs4TN.gov, according to the state Department of Labor.
The number of Tennesseans filing first-time unemployment claims each week has remained steady since Aug. 1, hovering between 10,000 and 14,000.
During the week ending Sept. 12, 10,771 Tennesseans filed new claims, bringing the state’s total count of new claims since March 15 to 840,626.
The number of continued claims remains on the decline: 163,791 Tennesseans filed a weekly certification to continue their unemployment benefits during the week ending Sept. 12, down from 176,388 the week before. Continued claims have dropped steadily after peaking at 325,095 in early May.
The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development paid 264,202 claims during the week ending Sept. 12 using more than $141 million in federal coronavirus relief funds.
Nationally, the unemployment rate decreased from 10.2% in July to 8.4% in August. More than 790,000 Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week.
Cassandra Stephenson is a business reporter at The Tennessean. Reach Cassandra at email@example.com.
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