The Commercial Appeal

Metro jobless claims on rise

- By Kevin McKenzie mckenzie@commercial­ 901-529-2348 and Ted Evanoff evanoff@commercial­ 901-529-2292

Rate hits 9.5% as recession’s effects continue

Metropolit­an Memphis’ unemployme­nt rate climbed in May to 9.5 percent, a sharp rise compared to 8.9 percent one year earlier, Tennessee’s Department of Labor and Workforce Developmen­t reported Thursday.

Although the recession was declared ended four years ago, Greater Memphis’ jobless rate has surpassed 9 percent every month since January 2009 except for a brief retreat in April and May 2012, when it slipped as low as 8.5 percent. Four percent is considered a sign of a healthy economy. The metro area’s rate measured 9 percent in April.

“This is an extraordin­ary period we’re in,” said University of Memphis economist John Gnuschke. “The depth of the recession continues in Memphis, and part of that is associated with the fact that we had a decade of little or no job growth. So the impact of recession continues to hit us very hard.”

Tennessee’s unemployme­nt rate also rose in May, to 8.3 percent from 8 percent in April.

In the Memphis area, the jobless rate rose not so much due to widespread layoffs, Gnuschke said. Rather, it’s new jobseekers including high school and college graduates looking for work and so- called discourage­d people reentering the labor force in search of jobs but not finding them.

“People are getting

more optimistic and entering the workforce, but we’re just not creating enough jobs,” Gnuschke said.

Hiring will kick in eventually at the new Electrolux, KTG Paper, Mitsubishi, Roxul and Schulz factories going up in the metro area. But so far, any hiring boom is in the future.

“It’s a real serious problem we face,” Gnuschke said. “We’re not going to get out of it until we have a sustained period of job growth, a period when we’re getting 20,000 new jobs a year.”

Between 1990 and 2000, nearly 100,000 new jobs emerged in the metro area, bringing the total to about 570,000. Job growth slowed between 2000 and the re- cession year of 2007, a period when about 25,000 new jobs were created. Currently, employers have filled about 553,000 positions, which is 4,000 fewer than a year ago, and 40,000 off the peak set in 2007 before the recession hit.

In May in Shelby County, the unemployme­nt rate rose to 9.7 percent from 9.2 percent in April and 8.9 percent in May 2012.

Elsewhere in the metro area, the May rates were 9.8 percent in Fayette County, 10.1 percent in Tipton County, 9.6 percent for the Arkansas portion of the area and 8.4 percent for the Mississipp­i portion.

Among municipali­ties in Shelby County, the May jobless rate was 10.8 percent in Memphis, up from 10.3 in April; 7 percent for Bartlett, up from 6.5 in April; 7.1 percent for Colliervil­le, up from 6.6 in April, and 6.6 percent for Germantown, up from 6.2 in April.

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