Tennessee sees lowest unemployment rate since before COVID shutdowns

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Posted at 8:27 PM, Dec 17, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee has reached a milestone as it rebounds from COVID-19.

“So from April of 2020 we had our highest unemployment rate at 15.8% through November of 2021 we’re back down to 4%- the number that it was just before the pandemic started,” said Assistant Administrator of Communications at the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Chris Cannon.

November's unemployment rate of 4% marks the lowest level since March of 2020.

TN pandemic unemployment chart
According to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Tennessee’s unemployment rate "has dropped to its lowest level since March 2020, the last month before COVID-19 business closures impacted workers across the state."

“The state took really innovative approaches to keep the trust fund above a certain level so taxes wouldn’t go up on employers and that left more money in the pockets of businesses across Tennessee so they could stay open,” said Cannon.

In addition, Lipscomb professor Andy Borchers says the pool of prospective workers has also gotten smaller.

“The unemployment rate concept people have to understand it’s a rate," said Borchers. "It’s how many are not working compared to how many are working, plus looking, and the plus looking part right now has not been as much as it might have been in other times.”

Whether workers opted for early retirement or simply new career paths, its giving today’s job applicants more leverage.

“Employers, they’re going to have to raise wages, they’re going to have to be more flexible about working hours,” said Borchers.

No surprise, data shows the leisure and hospitality industry have made the most new hires and as long as COVID is contained, Borchers is optimistic about the future of Tennessee jobs.

But he is concerned about inflation.

“The pressures of inflation are there because employers are having to pay higher wages, supply chain problems remain, and so prices are going up," he said. "But we’re certainly seeing wages go up as well.”