by Jon Styf
Tennessee had its lowest number of new unemployment claims last week since the impact of COVID-19 began in March 2020.
The state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development reported 4,736 new claims the week ending June 19. It’s the first time that total was less than 5,500 in a week since the week of March 14, 2020.
The previous low during that stretch was 5,789 for the week of Nov. 28, 2020.
“New claims are declining because employers are hiring, as our NFIB Tennessee survey in May showed, and hundreds of thousands of jobs are available in Tennessee,” said Jim Brown, Tennessee state director for the National Federation of Independent Business. “Continued claims were declining into early April but spiked back up, after the American Rescue Plan passed, and have persistently remained at the 50,000 level for three months, demonstrating many Tennesseans have decided to stay on unemployment until the supplemental federal benefit expires next week in Tennessee.”
Tennessee has 50,671 total active claims , down from the high of 325,000 in the second week of May 2020.
The department reported that 113,772 claims were paid last week with $54,835,513 in federal payments and $8,063,798 coming from the Tennessee unemployment insurance trust fund.
Tennessee is scheduled to stop its participation in the supplement federal pandemic relief payment program of $300 per week on July 4.
The discontinued involvement in the program will amount to $302 million in supplemental unemployment payments being declined by the state, which the U.S. Senate Joint Economic Committee recently said in a report would amount to $486 million not going into Tennessee’s local economy.
That report, however, was questioned by many other economists and Tennessee leaders.
“This report ignores the reality of economic incentives,” Beacon Center of Tennessee President and CEO Justin Owen said. “The fact is that businesses nationwide are struggling to find workers right now, and enhanced unemployment benefits mean that some people can make more by staying at home than they would going back to work. This not only hurts small businesses, but it hurts the economy at large.”
NFIB’s survey of business owners showed that 85% reported having job openings and 94% of those with openings reported having issues filling those roles. Of those reporting issues filling openings, 63% said that it was because of the federal pandemic relief unemployment benefits that they could not fill jobs.
“The Jobs4TN.gov website continues to show 250,000 jobs are available in TN,” Brown said. “ We continue to hear daily from many NFIB members that despite increasing wages they have few applicants and too many no-shows for interviews.”
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Jon Styf contributes to The Center Square.