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TN Unemployment Rate Drops to 6.6% in December

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development; January 22, 2015:

Fourth Consecutive Decrease of State Unemployment Rate

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Labor & Workforce Development Commissioner Burns Phillips announced today the Tennessee preliminary unemployment rate for December was 6.6 percent, two-tenths of one percentage point lower than the November revised rate of 6.8 percent. The U.S. preliminary rate for December was 5.6 percent, also falling two-tenths of one percentage point from the prior month.

Economic Summary

  • Over the past year, Tennessee’s unemployment rate decreased from 7.7 percent to 6.6 percent while the national rate declined from 6.7 percent to 5.6 percent.
  • Total nonfarm employment increased 12,500 jobs from November to December. The largest increases occurred in trade/transportation/utilities, manufacturing, and mining/logging/construction.
  • Over the year, nonfarm employment increased 66,200 jobs. The largest increases occurred in professional/business services, trade/transportation/utilities, and mining/logging/construction.

Cohen Renews Push for Federal Effort to Reduce Veteran Unemployment

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; January 14, 2015:

[MEMPHIS, TN] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today introduced the Putting Our Veterans Back to Work Act to help reduce veteran unemployment and train our nation’s heroes for the good-paying, high-demand jobs being created by innovative American small businesses. Congressman Cohen’s legislation would reauthorize the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP), which helps train unemployed veterans for careers in high-demand occupations, through 2018.

“Our nation’s veterans put their lives on the line to secure our freedom and our safety,” said Congressman Cohen. “We must do all that we can to repay their sacrifices and help them get back on their feet when they return home. I am proud to introduce the Putting Our Veterans Back to Work Act to make sure that unemployed veterans have access to the support they need to find good-paying jobs in our 21st century economy.”

VRAP was created by the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011to help unemployed veterans access educational training programs that could lead to high-demand occupations including management, business and financial operations, protective service, healthcare, transportation, and many others. While the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) approved more than 126,000 applications from veterans seeking to enter the program, only 76,000 were enrolled before the program’s authorization expired last year. VRAP offered up to 12 months of training assistance to unemployed Veterans who:

  • Were at least 35 but no more than 60 years old
  • Were unemployed on the date of application
  • Received an other than dishonorable discharge
  • Were not eligible for any other VA education benefit program (e.g.: the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Montgomery GI Bill, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Assistance)
  • Were not in receipt of VA compensation due to unemployability
  • Were not enrolled in a federal or state job training program

Congressman Cohen’s Putting Our Veterans Back to Work Act is cosponsored by U.S. Representatives Karen Bass (CA-37), Madeleine Bordallo (Guam-AL), David Cicilline (RI-01), Hank Johnson (GA-04), Robin Kelly (IL-02), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Gregory Meeks (NY-05), George McGovern (MA-02), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL), Charles Rangel (NY-13), Bobby Rush (IL-01), Jose Serrano (NY-15), Niki Tsongas (MA-03), and Peter Welch (VT-AL).

Government Jobs Shrinking Under Last Two Years of Haslam

In a blog post Wednesday examining the state’s ascending unemployment rate, Ed Arnold at the Memphis Business Journal pointed out that the biggest loss of jobs has come from the government sector.

Tennessee’s unemployment rate for August 2014 was 7.4 percent — 1.1 percent lower than the 2013 rate, which was unchanged from August 2012’s rate of 8.5 percent. However, the most recent unemployment numbers also represent a 1.1 percent increase from this April’s rate of 6.3 percent.

As the MBJ piece explains, although several employment sectors have shed jobs in recent months only three have a smaller workforce than in fall of 2013 — information, education and government.

Information and education both lost 1,300 workers.

The government workforce, which saw an increase in nearly 7,000 employees between 2011 and 2012, had declined by 11,600 workers in 2013, according to Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development figures. That fall continued through 2014, with a loss of 6,700.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed 2014-15 budget also included a reduction of 664 state employee positions, 100 of which were not vacant.

Haslam, a former Knoxville mayor whose family founded the Pilot Flying J truck stop chain, has made it a top goal of his administration to streamline state government, making it more efficient and business-like.

In 2012 the General Assembly passed civil service reform legislation, pushed by Haslam, that granted the state more freedom in hiring and firing practices, as well as to reward performance over seniority.

TN Unemployment Ticks Up Slightly in May

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development; June 19, 2014:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Labor & Workforce Development Commissioner Burns Phillips announced today the Tennessee preliminary unemployment rate for May is 6.4%, a tenth of one percentage point higher than the 6.3% April revised rate. The U.S. preliminary rate for May is 6.3%, same as the U.S. April revised rate.

Economic Summary:

  • Over the past year, Tennessee’s unemployment rate decreased from 8.4% to 6.4% while the national rate decreased from 7.5% to 6.3%.
  • Total nonfarm employment increased 6,700 jobs from April to May. The largest increases occurred in leisure/hospitality, retail trade, and local government.
  • Over the year, nonfarm employment increased 56,900 jobs. The largest increases occurred in professional/business services, leisure/hospitality, and trade/transportation/utilities.

For a schedule of media release dates, please visit http://www.tn.gov/labor-wfd/news/tfs.shtml.

TN House Dems: GOP Policies Causing TN Workers to be ‘Left Behind’ in Economic Recovery

Press release from the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus; November 22, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (11/22/13) – Figures released from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that Tennessee has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. At 8.4%, Tennessee is tied for 42nd in unemployment.

“Unfortunately for Tennesseans, the Republicans are winning their war on working people,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner (D-Nashville). “The GOP promised that if we gutted worker and consumer protections that we would become an oasis of job creation. Instead, our workers are being left behind in an economic recovery that has led to lower unemployment numbers in most other states.”

Tennessee’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained stagnant at 8.4% in October while 28 other states saw decreases in their unemployment. Earlier this month, Tennessee’s Comptroller released a scathing report indicating that the Haslam administration failed to adequately account for billions of dollars in tax dollars that were supposed to go towards job creation.

“In spite of billions of dollars in giveaways to large corporations, too many Tennesseans are struggling to find a good job,” said Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville). “In a little over a month it will get even worse when Governor Haslam’s refusal to accept the Medicaid expansion will result in thousands of jobs and billions of dollars lost in Tennessee.”

According to a University of Memphis study, If Governor Haslam does not expand Medicaid, Tennessee’s economy will lose out on $10.5 billion in federal funds and 18,000 jobs over the next five years.

Many TN Veterans Facing Tough Employment Prospects

At an event near the Capitol in Nashville to honor Tennessee veterans, Gov. Bill Haslam said last week that men and women who served in the military are typically well-suited for the workforce, but often they encounter unique challenges in actually finding jobs.

“You have folks who are coming back looking for maybe a specific employment opportunity that might not exist. Or maybe they had the right training and maybe they didn’t in the military, and they need to access the training,” Haslam told reporters Nov. 6 after a Governor’s Veterans Day ceremony in which he delivered a statement of gratitude to four long-term state employees who previously served in the armed forces.

The governor said he’s sensitive to difficulties vets often face in the job market. He indicated his administration is trying to link veterans’ with steady-wage prospects as well as lend them assistance developing skills that are in demand if someone who’s left the military is lacking in that area.

Haslam said jobs with companies the administration is recruiting to locate “advanced manufacturing” facilities here are also helping vets earn paychecks.

His ongoing efforts to encourage Tennesseans to pursue paths in learning beyond high school is aimed at returned service members, too, Haslam said. “It’s one of the reasons we’re working really hard to increase adult access to post-secondary education, because a lot of our veterans are saying, ‘I need a different skill set than what I thought I needed when I first went into the military,’” he said.

Currently, more than 3,000 state government employees have also served in the United States military, which the governor said reflects a commitment on his administration’s part to take specials steps to hire former members of the armed services whenever possible. “About 10 percent of our total state workforce are veterans, and it matches up with the almost 10 percent of Tennesseans who have served in the military as well,” Haslam said.

In 2012, the the Haslam administration won legislative passage of the Tennessee Excellence, Accountability and Management Act, a civil-service system revamp that reformed state government hiring and firing practices. One of the TEAM Act’s requirements is that the state give “interview preference” to veterans and their spouses when considering “appointments and promotions.” The idea is that “if there are two candidates with equal qualifications, knowledge, skills, etc., preference will be given to the veteran,” according to an administration press release issued when the governor signed the law a year and a half ago.

Tennessee has generally struggled with higher unemployment the past few years. The state’s rate, most recently 8.5 percent, has stubbornly hovered above the national average, now 7.3 percent. Volunteer State veterans as a subset of Tennessee’s total population look to be faring better, with a 2012 rate of 7.3 percent.

But for veterans who served in the military after the attacks of September 11, the picture is much bleaker.

A report issued last spring that indicates job prospects for veterans are improving in the nation as a whole also shows that in 2012 Tennessee had one of the highest unemployment rates for “post-9/11 veterans” of any state in America.

Joblessness among post-9/11 veterans in Tennessee neared 21 percent last year, more than five points above any neighboring state, according to research compiled in May by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee‘s Vice Chair Amy Klobuchar, a Senate Democrat from Minnesota.

  • Tennessee – 20.7
  • Mississippi – 15.3
  • Georgia – 13.9
  • Kentucky – 13.2
  • North Carolina – 12.4
  • Alabama – 6.7
  • Missouri – 6.7
  • Arkansas – 5.4
  • Virginia – 3.7

Haslam said he wasn’t aware Tennessee’s unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans was that high. But the governor’s veterans affairs chief said that with respect to state government jobs, the administration is doing all it can to carry out the TEAM Act’s stipulations on preferential hiring for former armed services members.

“Since the TEAM Act went into effect in October of 2012, the state has hired 717 veterans,” said Many-Bears Grinder, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Veteran Affairs, who has 35 years of experience in the National Guard.

She added that her agency has formed a partnership with the Department of Economic and Community Development to assist veterans with small businesses. Also, efforts are ongoing to connect work-seeking veterans with employers seeking to hire, Grinder said, such as providing resume tips on the Department of Veterans Affairs website and hooking veterans up with job fairs like the statewide “Paychecks for Patriots” event it hosted on Oct. 17.

As for the TEAM Act and government jobs, the Tennessee State Employees Association executive director, Robert O’Connell, said it doesn’t necessarily or automatically lead to more veterans getting hired. When the TEAM Act took effect it nixed the previous point-system scheme that gave special merit-valuation for prior military service, he said.

When the General Assembly was wrangling over the governor’s civil service overhaul in 2012, TSEA credited itself with successfully lobbying to amend the proposed legislation to restore “veteran’s preference in hiring,” which was absent in the TEAM Act when it was introduced.

State hiring practices are now “more subjective,” said O’Connell, who is also a veteran. Nevertheless, he said it is true that under the TEAM Act, “if the administration wants to hire more veterans, they can.”

“If they wanted to hire only veterans, they could probably end up doing it under this system, whereas they couldn’t do it under the old system,” said O’Connell.

According to figures cited in Sen.  Klobuchar’s report to Congress’s Joint Economic Committee, 257,000 of the Tennessee’s 525,000 veterans are considered to be in the workforce. About 48,000 of those are post-9/11 vets with 10,000 unemployed.

By comparison, Virginia has 143,000 post-9/11 veterans with 5,000 unemployed, Georgia’s has 108,500 with 15,000 unemployed, North Carolina has 89,000 with 11,000 unemployed, Alabama has 52,000 with 3,000 unemployed, Missouri has 37,000 with 3,000 unemployed, Kentucky has 29,000 with 4,000 unemployed, Mississippi has 19,000 with 3,000 unemployed and Arkansas has 16,000 with 1,000 unemployed.

The two states with higher rates of unemployment for post-9/11 veterans than Tennessee were Nevada with a rate of 22.6 percent and Massachusetts with a rate of 23.4 percent. The national post-9/11 veteran unemployment rate was 9.9 percent.

TN Enrolls 6,000 Unemployed, Underemployed Workers in Training Programs

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Labor; July 17, 2013:

NASHVILLE – During the 12-month period ending in March 2013, more than 6,000 unemployed or underemployed Tennessee workers were enrolled in training for a variety of occupations.

The Adult and Dislocated Worker Program gives eligible workers services and training to increase employability and earnings in jobs in their local communities. The program also provides local employers the skilled workers they need to keep a successful and viable workforce in place.

“When jobseekers come into our Career Centers, we do an objective assessment to determine their skills in a particular area and match those with job opportunities based on their skills. We try to move people directly into a job with a company that is hiring,” said Sterling van der Spuy, Workforce Services Administrator for the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development.

Sometimes the Career Center staff cannot create an immediate transition to an employment opportunity for the person who has lost his job. “The next step is to use Jobs4TN.gov to examine job opportunities and in-demand occupations in the area to determine a successful career path of interest to the job seeker. We assess the person’s skills and abilities and decide if this is a candidate for whom we could make some training investment to be successful – maybe to meet the demands of a new industry that has just moved into the community,” van der Spuy said.

The training is made available with federal funds through the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). Past WIA funding has made possible special arrangements with community colleges for employers coming to Tennessee and needing potential employees to take a certain curriculum.

WIA money does not pay the entire cost of training. WIA staff connects participants with other sources that can supplement costs, such as grants and scholarships.

In addition to classroom training, 1,204 workers were enrolled in on-the-job training statewide through March 2013. With on-the-job training, the department uses WIA money to offset some of the wages for the training when the skill cannot be learned in a classroom. The department shares the wages so a manager who’s producing revenue for the company can spend time with a newly hired employee teaching him how to do the job.

The State Workforce Board, made up of business, community, and government leaders, allocates funding received under the Workforce Investment Act to 13 Local Workforce Investment Areas to provide workforce development and career services based on local needs. Eligible training providers, approved by Local Workforce Investment Area Boards, are available at https://apps.tn.gov/wiaetpl-app/search.html.

Employers and workers wanting more information about WIA training can go to http://www.tn.gov/labor-wfd/empwfd.shtml.

TN Sees Spike in Unemployment for May

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development; June 20, 2013:

STATE EXPERIENCES SPIKE IN NUMBER OF UNEMPLOYED AS NEW ENTRANTS, REENTRANTS, AND DISLOCATED WORKERS RETURN TO THE JOB MARKET

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Labor & Workforce Development Commissioner Burns Phillips announced today Tennessee’s unemployment rate for May was 8.3 percent, which increased three tenths of one percentage point from the April revised rate of 8.0 percent. The national unemployment rate for May 2013 was 7.6 percent, increasing by one tenth of one percentage point from the previous month.

Economic Summary:

  • Tennessee’s labor force hit a record high in May, mostly from new entrants, reentrants, and dislocated workers returning to the labor force as unemployed persons.
  • Total nonfarm employment increased 5,700 from April to May. The largest increases occurred in accommodation/food services, administrative/support/waste services, and retail trade.

Over the year, nonfarm employment increased 52,500. The largest increases were in professional/business services, accommodation/food services, and health care/social assistance.

Federal Unemployment Benefits Extension Provides Benefits to About 30,000 Tennesseans

Press release from the Department of Labor & Workforce Development; January 3, 2012: 

NASHVILLE – The American Taxpayer Relief Act, which became law late Wednesday, extends the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC08) program through January 1, 2014. The federal benefits were slated to expire at the end of 2012 with claimants receiving their last payment the first week of January.

EUC08 is a federally-funded program providing unemployment benefits to approximately 30,000 Tennesseans who have exhausted the first 26 weeks of state benefits (maximum). The legislation only extends the deadline to receive existing federal benefits and does not add additional weeks. Tennessee claimants are currently allowed a maximum of 26 weeks of state benefits and an additional 37 weeks of federal benefits.

“This has been an uncertain time for those depending on unemployment benefits,” said Labor Commissioner Karla Davis. “I would encourage claimants to focus their job search by using our jobs database at Jobs4tn.gov and visiting a Tennessee Career Center.”

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development must still receive authorization from the USDOL to pay federal EUC08 claims. While the USDOL expects to have authorizations in place to provide a seamless transition, a delay of a week or more is possible. A retroactive payment would then be made to make up for lost weeks before resuming regular weekly payments.

Those presently receiving federal benefits should continue their weekly certification that notifies the department by phone or Internet they are still unemployed. If claimants stop their certification, they will have to contact the claims center to verify their unemployment status and could face a delay in their benefit resumption. Claimants should also continue to complete at least two work searches per week in order to meet the requirements for receiving federal benefits.

Claimants can check the status of their unemployment benefit deposit by logging in to https://ui.tn.gov with their personal identification number. If their account shows the benefit amount is “released,” the deposit will be available within 48 hours.

Additional updates will be provided on the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development website at http://www.tn.gov/labor-wfd/2012_Unemployment_Update2.shtml.

Refusal of Acceptable Employment Offers to Disqualify TN Unemployment Claimants

Press release from the Department of Labor & Workforce Development; October 4, 2012: 

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development today announced claimants who refuse to accept a suitable offer of employment will be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. Recent changes to Employment Security Law redefine what is considered suitable and revise the standard based on the length of time unemployment benefits are received. If the Agency finds a claimant has refused otherwise suitable work based solely upon the rate of pay, then his claim is stopped for refusing such work.

Previously, to be considered suitable employment, the proposed job had to be approximately the same rate of pay and hours as the claimant’s most recent work. Under the new law, claimants must decrease salary and wage demands the longer they receive unemployment insurance benefits.

A job offer is considered suitable according to the following criteria:

  • During the first 13 weeks of unemployment, an offer of 100% of the wages of the most recent work
  • During the 14th through the 25th week of unemployment, an offer of 75% of the wages of the most recent work
  • During the 26th through the 38th week of unemployment, an offer of 70% of the wages of the most recent work
  • After the 38th week of unemployment, 65% of the wages of the most recent work

Other considerations of suitable work include previous wage and skill levels. Suitable work also entails having hours and days that are standard to the industry, and commuting distance must be reasonably the same as previous work experience.

A claimant will not be required to accept employment below the federal minimum wage. An offer of employment is not bona fide if only a possibility of employment exists.

Employers are encouraged to notify the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development if they feel a claimant refuses a suitable offer of employment.