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Tennessee unemployment rate hits new high

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) — A nearly 50-year-old record has been broken in Tennessee.

The state reports the lowest unemployment rate since Tennessee began tracking in the 1970s.

The numbers are positive for the Willing State, but “HELP WANTED” signs still adorn the doors and windows of businesses across Memphis.

State officials say people are working, but Tennessee could be facing a new problem, too many jobs.

In April 2020, businesses were closed in the Mid-South to contain the virus, leaving millions of employees out of work.

The unemployment rate in Tennessee has reached the highest rate in history at nearly 16%.

Fast forward to 2022 and the state hit another milestone, the lowest unemployment rate at a seasonally adjusted rate of 3.2%, beating the previous record high of 3.2% set in August 2019.

“There are more people working in March in Tennessee than there have been in the last 10 years. So people are in the workforce, people are working, but there are still a lot of workers who still need to fill those positions,” said Chris Cannon of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Tennessee.

Cannon says the state has created more than 124,000 jobs in the past year, which may explain all those “Help Wanted” signs.

“When the numbers go so low at 3.2%, that’s almost considered full employment, it means almost everyone in the workforce has a job,” Cannon said.

The hardest hit industry is tourism and recreation.

Tourism officials say the crowds are back, but the workers are not.

“If you asked me 5 or 10 years ago what the big problem would be in 2022, I would say it was the decline in jobs due to automation and things going overseas , so I’m surprised we have this labor shortage,” said Alan Crone, a Memphis employment attorney.

Crone has his own theories about the labor shortage, including people going back to school or training for other jobs.

Crone says stricter immigration laws could contribute to the shortage.

Often, migrants fill entry-level jobs that are currently so hard to fill, and companies may need to reassess pay scales.

He also wonders if people are turning to online or remote jobs.

“You can go to these websites and get jobs based on a freelance contract. You don’t get a W-2, you don’t look for a job, but there are all kinds of ways, like the one that results in fewer people looking for those traditional jobs,” Crone said.

Cannon says it’s time to find new ways and new pipelines to fill positions.

“It also involves reintegrating into corrections and prisons and training people while they are still incarcerated to become skilled workers and when they go out to work with employers to give them that second chance,” said cannon. .

Some small business owners say that while applications are online, after being hired, people can work for a short time and then move on.

Cannon also says the state is looking at new ways to attract skilled workers from *out of state* to help with the labor shortage.

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