Gov. Bill Haslam sees two different stories in the state’s recent economic figures, mirroring national trends.
Revenue is looking good in the state. Unemployment is looking bad.
“What’s going on both in the state and nationally is mixed economic news,” Haslam said Thursday.
“Our sales tax receipts are hanging in there. What’s not moving is unemployment. Either in Tennessee or across the nation, that’s obviously the primary concern.”
Later in the day, the state announced revenue collections at a net positive growth of 9.82 percent over May 2010. Revenues for May were $842.5 million, $63.5 million more than budgeted, marking the ninth consecutive month where total collections topped budget estimates in the state and the 14th consecutive month for positive growth in sales tax collections.
But Finance and Administration Commissioner Mark Emkes issued a word of caution while announcing the positive news.
“Although Tennessee’s revenue collections continue to show a positive growth trend, the national leading economic indicators are causing us concern and require us to continue to closely monitor expenditures for the remainder of this year so that we end the fiscal year with a balanced budget,” Emkes said in a department press release.
Tennessee’s most recent employment figures are from April and show unemployment at 9.6 percent, up .1 percentage point from March.
The national unemployment rate for May was 9.1 percent, which was up 0.1 percentage point from April, and April’s national figure was up 0.2 percentage point from March.
“Sales-tax-wise, we continue to be where we expected, maybe a hair ahead,” Haslam said Thursday. “Unemployment, we’re still very disappointed with the numbers.”
The most recent figures come as the Haslam administration announced directors this week for eight of the nine regional jobs “base camps” under Haslam’s Jobs4TN plan. Each director will be a full-time employee and work in the region designated.
“During the campaign, I talked a lot about this idea of having regional teams, with the idea that they could focus more on existing businesses and smaller businesses to meet their needs,” Haslam said. “We want to get those folks out in the field.
“What they can be is an ombudsman of sorts, if you will, in that region. Anything from coordinating issues you might have with TDOT or TDEC to reaching out to local economic development or elected officials. They will be the state’s point person in that region.”
The state agencies Haslam mentioned are the Tennessee Department of Transportation and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
The nation’s trade deficit improved in April, according to figures announced Thursday by the Commerce Department. But concern remained over unemployment and high food prices.