Tennessee Unemployment Rate More Than Quadrupled During COVID-19

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Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development officials revealed Thursday that the state’s unemployment rate was at its highest-ever, because of COVID-19, according to a TDLWD press release.

“The preliminary seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment rate for April 2020 is 14.7 percent, which is an unprecedented spike of 11.4 percentage points when compared to March’s revised rate of 3.3 percent. This is Tennessee’s highest unemployment rate in a generation. Before the pandemic, the state’s all-time highest seasonally adjusted rate was 12.9 percent, which occurred in back to back months in December 1982 and January 1983,” according to the press release.

“Total nonfarm employment in Tennessee decreased by 376,900 jobs between March and April. The largest decreases occurred in leisure/hospitality, manufacturing and professional/business services sectors. Over the last 12 months, nonfarm employment decreased by 341,000 jobs. Like the month-to-month data, the largest decreases for the year occurred in the leisure/ hospitality, manufacturing and professional/business services sectors.”

Since March 15, Tennessee has seen an unprecedented surge in unemployment claims filed. During the week ending May 16, the state paid more than 319,000 claimants nearly $359 million in unemployment benefits. Nationally, seasonally adjusted unemployment experienced a similar spike as in Tennessee. The April 2020 rate for the United States is 14.7 percent. That figure represents a 10.3 percentage point increase from the previous month’s rate, the press release said.

The statewide unemployment rate is seasonally adjusted to eliminate the influences of weather, holidays, the opening and closing of schools, and other recurring seasonal events from an economic time series.

State officials are scheduled to release the April 2020 county unemployment rates at 1:30 p.m. Central Time on Thursday, May 28, the press release said.

As The Tennessee Star reported last month, residents in Northern Middle Tennessee and East Tennessee have likely filed high numbers of unemployment claims because of their respective hospitality industries. If tourists may not travel to those areas then, of course, Tennessee’s hospitality industry cannot thrive.

“There is no way to know for certain why these areas of Tennessee have seen more unemployment than others. But, Nashville sits in the Northern Middle Tennessee region and the Smoky Mountains are part of the East Tennessee region,” TDLWD spokesman Chris Cannon told The Star last month.

“These locations are home to a majority of the state’s hospitality industry. This industry has been one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 health emergency in our state.”

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]

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2 Thoughts to “Tennessee Unemployment Rate More Than Quadrupled During COVID-19”

  1. William Delzell

    I don’t like massive unemployment any more than the next person, but I still put public safety first over reopening jobs. If people have to return to work without any safety provisions and without adequate pay and benefits, then the economic growth won’t be worth the effort. If every re-employed worker gets too sick to work or dies on the job due to the stinginess of the Tea Party, then Tennessee and the rest of the Union will revert back to Step One–or even lower than Step One.

    Make sure our workers will be safe before they return to work.

    If our essential employees at grocery stores, hospitals, and the like should either die altogether from sickness or decide to call a general strike to protest dangerous work conditions, then the rest of us at home will be unable to get groceries or other vital services and will all have to suffer because of the G.O.P.’s over-eagerness to make a fast buck.

  2. 83ragtop50

    Thank you, Governor Lee.