New Numbers Show Tennessee’s ‘Staggering Increase in Unemployment’


Officials with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development released statistics Thursday showing what they call “a staggering increase in unemployment for each of Tennessee’s 95 counties” in April. This, as many businesses closed to help slow the spread of COVID-19, according to a TDLWD press release.

“The unprecedented and historic spike in unemployment impacted some counties more drastically than others, but no area of Tennessee escaped the pandemic’s effect on the state’s workforce,” the press release said.

The TDLWD statistics, among other things, revealed the following:

• Fayette County had Tennessee’s lowest unemployment rate in April. At 9.4 percent, the county’s rate increased by 6.1 percentage points when compared to its revised March rate of 3.3 percent.

• Weakley County had the second-lowest unemployment rate for the month at 9.6 percent, followed by Hardeman County at 9.7 percent.

• Fayette, Weakley, and Hardeman were the only counties in the state with unemployment rates below 10 percent in April.

• Sevier County recorded Tennessee’s highest unemployment rate for the month. The county’s new jobless figure of 29.5 percent represents a staggering spike of 26 percentage points when compared to its revised March rate of 3.5 percent.

• Neighboring Cocke County had the second-highest jobless rate in April at 25.6 percent, a 20.9 percentage point increase from the previous month. Grundy County ranked third-highest with a rate of 25.3 percent, which is a 21.1 percentage point spike when compared to March’s rate.

• When comparing Tennessee’s three largest cities, Nashville had the highest unemployment rate in April. The city’s rate of 15.9 percent is a 13.5 percentage point increase over its revised March rate of 2.4 percent. Memphis recorded a rate of 14.3 percent, a spike of 10.1 percentage points from the previous month, and Knoxville’s April rate of 14.7 percent is an 11.8 percentage point jump.

• Statewide, unemployment reached a historic high in April. The seasonally adjusted rate of 14.7 percent surpassed the previous all-time high figure of 12.9 percent in January 1983.

Unlike the statewide unemployment rate, county unemployment statistics are not seasonally adjusted, the press release said.

A complete in-depth analysis of unemployment data for each of Tennessee’s counties is available here. The state of Tennessee will release the statewide unemployment rate for May 2020 at 1:30 p.m. Central Thursday, June 18, according to the press release.

TDLWD officials, in a separate press release they sent via email, said that as of May 23 Tennesseans had filed 26,041 new unemployment claims.

Also, as of May 23 exactly 310,126 Tennessee residents had continued unemployment claims. One week prior to that, on May 16, exactly 314,487 people in the state had continued unemployment claims.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Long Lines” by Gabriel White. CC BY-SA 2.0.







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