Categories
Business and Economy NewsTracker

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.

Categories
Press Releases

TN Unemployment Rate Up, Federal Rate Down

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development; July 17, 2014:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Labor & Workforce Development Commissioner Burns Phillips announced today the Tennessee preliminary unemployment rate for June was 6.6%, two tenths of one percentage point higher than the 6.4 May revised rate. The U.S. preliminary rate for June was 6.1%, down from 6.3% in May.

Economic Summary: 

  • Over the past year, Tennessee’s unemployment rate decreased from 8.4% to 6.6% while the national rate decreased from 7.5% to 6.1%.
  • Total nonfarm employment decreased 2,600 jobs from May to June. The largest decreases occurred in mining/logging/construction, government, and other services.

Over the year, nonfarm employment increased 53,600 jobs. The largest increases occurred in professional/business services, leisure/hospitality, and trade/transportation/utilities.

Categories
Press Releases

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.

Categories
Press Releases

TCA: Haslam Gives Another ‘Non-Answer’ on Dept. of Labor ‘Mismanagement’

Press release from Tennessee Citizen Action; April 3, 2013:

GOVERNOR’S ANSWER ON MISMANAGEMENT WITHIN DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT IS YET ANOTHER NON-ANSWER

Nashville, Tenn. (April 3, 2013) – Yesterday, in response to the call from Tennessee Citizen Action, the AFL-CIO of Tennessee, and several legislators to put the brakes on his proposed changes to workers’ comp law that will create a new division under the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the Governor said that he thought “the comptroller’s audit had no bearing on workers’ comp.” His full statement given during a press availability: “I think it’s a whole separate deal. One of those is about processing claims, and one of them is about adjudicating workers’ comp issues, so those are two very, very different issues. They’re in the same department, I admit, but they’re two very different issues.”

“We’ve heard this sort of non-answer answer before from Governor Haslam,” said Mary Mancini, executive director, Tennessee Citizen Action, “Instead of thoughtfully reconsidering his decision to add yet another division to the troubled Department of Labor, the Governor’s non-answer indicates his choice to trivialize and isolate the findings of the report and detach his public policy decisions from the mismanagement identified within the report.”

Governor Haslam is pushing to create a new multimillion-dollar workers’ comp division housed within the troubled Department of Labor and Workforce Development that has also in recent weeks seen it’s top management resign for “family reasons” and about which the Comptroller’s Single Audit Report said the “management has threatened the integrity of the Unemployment Insurance Program by failing to provide sufficient controls and oversight.”

The report found problems within 11 different state agencies and universities, and the Department of Labor and Workforce Development was the subject of 25% of the problems.

“If he wants to be honest, it’s not just the Department of Labor that has issues, it’s also 10 other agencies within his government,” said Wil Hammond, Communications Director, AFL-CIO of TN, “If anything, the mismanagement is worse than he is willing to admit to. This is clearly not the right time to add more responsibilities to an agency that can’t handle the load they have now.”

Tennessee Citizen and the AFL-CIO of Tennessee once again call on Governor Haslam to delay the creation of a new workers’ comp authority under the Department of Labor until he has had a chance to clean up department and the Comptroller has a chance to issue the 2013 Single Audit Report in 2014.

Source: TNReport.com

Categories
Press Releases

Two Anderson Co. Companies Awarded Job Training Grants

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development; March 5, 2013:

NASHVILLE – Governor Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development Commissioner Karla Davis have awarded $29,947 to Protomet Corporation in Oak Ridge and $25,000 to Techmer PM in Clinton.

“If Tennessee is going to become the number one location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs, then we must offer a well-trained workforce to employers,” said Governor Haslam. “This kind of training grant not only helps educate workers, but also provides incentive to employers looking to relocate or expand in Tennessee.”

“Both job creation and retention are vital in maintaining a healthy economy in Tennessee, and the Incumbent Worker Training program has played a key role in accomplishing this,” said Commissioner Davis. “Since the program’s inception, Incumbent Worker Training grants have assisted more than 600 businesses by providing $14 million to train approximately 50,000 employees.”

In their application for the grant, Protomet Corporation stated this grant would allow the company to balance capital expenditures with process and organizational improvements to keep cost low and compete in theglobal economy allowing the business to grow and retain employees.

In their application for the grant, Techmer PM stated this grant would develop the skills that will allow the team to identify waste throughout the process. The removal of the waste – time, money, and resources – will keep Techmer PM competitive in the market and assist in growing the business.

“I would like to thank Governor Haslam and Commissioner Davis for their involvement in awarding this grant to the workers of Anderson County,” said Senator Randy McNally.

“By investing in the skills of Tennessee’s workforce, we’re also investing in our future economic success,” said Representative John Ragan.

The East Tennessee Human Resource Agency played a key role in awarding the grant to Protomet Corporation.

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development administers the Incumbent Worker Training program. The program has been structured to be flexible to meet the business’s training objectives. The business may use public, private, or its own in-house training provider based on the nature of the training.

The following criteria must be met to qualify for the Incumbent Worker Training Program. Employersmust be in operation in Tennessee for at least one year prior to application date. Employers must have at least five full-time employees, demonstrate financial viability and be current on all state tax obligations. Funding priority is given to businesses whose grant proposals represent a significant layoff avoidance strategy and represent a significant upgrade of skills.

Categories
Business and Economy Education News Tax and Budget

Haslam Takes Up Task of Trimming Down Spending

Gov. Bill Haslam kicked off a four-day stretch of departmental hearings Monday as a warm-up to drafting his first state budget.

The new governor digested spending-plan projections from some heavy fiscal hitters right off the bat, including the Departments of Health, Education and Higher Education, which all had to present budget scenarios with reductions of 1 percent and 2 percent.

“We have 23 departments, if you add up all the requests, it will be a number obviously that we can’t fund,” Haslam said during a short break between hearings. “It’s their job to request that and to prioritize that … and then we have to wade through that at the end of the day.”

Haslam said he’s confident there’ll be fewer employees on the state payroll under his budget plan. But he said reductions need to be made “surgically” instead of by slashing staff with massive layoffs.

Haslam also heard from the Departments of Tourist Development and Financial Institutions Monday. On Tuesday, he is scheduled to hear from the Education Lottery Corporation and the Departments of Environment and Conservation, Transportation, Labor and Workforce Development, Corrections, Veterans Affairs, General Services, Commerce and Insurance, and Economic and Community Development. Hearings are expected to continue through Thursday morning.

Here are some highlights from Monday’s hearings:

Education

Education officials proposed an increase of $423 million in the state-funded portion of its budget, bringing the overall budget to $5.1 billion. Acting Education Commissioner Patrick Smith said the increase includes pay rasies and increased state funding to schools mandated by inflation and the state’s school funding formula.

Haslam told reporters that he’s committed to fully funding schools as called for under the formula, known as the Basic Education Program.

“If you look at new dollars that are available in the state, at the end of the day, about half of them will be end up taken up in (Basic Education Program) formula and TennCare increases, just by formula, not by doing anything different,” he said.

Smith outlined about $3.5 million in possible cuts, which would eliminate positions and supply costs. The proposal would also reduce operating costs for the state’s schools for the blind and deaf, cut grants that support public television stations operated by schools and reduce other programs. Without additional funds, about $70 million in other programs and grants paid for with one-time money will be cut.

The total education budget is estimated to decrease this year by about $510 million because of a $1 billion reduction in federal funds.

Tourist Development

State tourism officials say they want to build two new “Welcome Centers,” even though all departments have been asked to propose reductions to their annual budget as one-time federal stimulus dollars run out this year. According to the department, the state currently operates 14 Welcome Centers across the state.

They described plans to build a center as part of a solar farm in Haywood County, and another visitor center along I-26 in Sullivan County.

Haslam questioned the expansion plans: “I’m just wondering why, in tight times, we’re adding them.”

The centers had “been on the books for 10 years,” and the planning and funding had been approved for several years as well, Department Commissioner Susan Whitaker said.

Health

Haslam opened his first budget hearing with Commissioner of Health Susan Cooper, who emphasized the department’s role in instilling good health into all environments and not specifically focused on individual clinical care. She addressed disease prevention and outbreak investigations, immunizations, licensing facilities and emergency preparedness.

The department employs roughly 3,000 people.

She noted that in 2005 the state ranked 48th in the nation in health status but is now 42nd, crediting decreased use of tobacco and returns on investment in community efforts to fight diabetes.

Haslam set the tone early that he would ask many questions along the way, frequently interjecting and asking if stimulus funds had been involved in expenditures.

Cooper noted that good health factors can be attractive to new businesses. She outlined a base budget of $539 million.

The department offered several potential budget reduction areas such as travel, cutting communications costs, abolishing a few positions and eliminating a hemophilia program, which she quickly added would require a change in statute.

Higher Education

Joe DiPietro, president of the University of Tennessee, and John Morgan, chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents made their first budget appearances since taking their new positions. The message they gave Haslam was that while there are great financial challenges facing the system, the state has high value in its higher education institutions.

Richard G. Rhoda, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission led off the presentation and underscored the financial crunch by telling Haslam that in the last 10 years enrollment at the state’s four-year schools has gone up 22 percent but that they have seen appropriations fall 33 percent. At the same time, tuition and fees have risen 74 percent.

Meanwhile, Rhoda said, enrollment at two-year schools is up 38 percent during that period while appropriations are down 26 percent. But in that time, tuition and fees for those schools have risen 126 percent.

Morgan said space constraints are a serious problem at many of the state’s technology centers. DiPietro said one issue facing UT is that some buildings are over 40 years old and in need of repairs. When Haslam asked the higher ed panel if they had any creative ideas to address the financial stress on the system, one possibility Morgan raised was to apply means-testing to the HOPE scholarships derived from the state’s lottery. Haslam said after the hearing he is not ready to take such a step.

Reid Akins and Mike Morrow contributed to this report.