Top Regional News: Unemployment Rate Falls in Tennessee

Author : Steven De Nazareth

Updated : June 12th, 2019

Tennessee was the 16th state in 1796 and is today bordered by eight states and the Mississippi River. Also known as the Volunteer State, it is home to over 6.6 million people and has its capital in Nashville. Other counties with large populations include Memphis, Knoxville, Chattanooga, and Clarksville. The median household income is $47,275 which is slightly lower than the national average. On the other hand, the poverty rate is at 16.7% which is 10% higher than the US rate.


Tennessee’s jobless rate is well below the comparable US rate of 4.2% and lower than Georgia’s 4.5% rate in September 2017. This is the lowest monthly rate in Tennessee since the US Bureau of Labor Statistics started tracking information since January 1976. The best takeaway is that unemployment is down nearly 2 percentage points from last year.

The average weekly earnings for manufacturing workers in Tennessee has grown from $11.51 to $830.19 since August. Though Tennessee factory workers got sizable increases in their paychecks than the nationwide average gain of $2.53 per week. Tennessee’s manufacturing wages since August was lesser than the US average at 5.7%.

Chattanooga’s unemployment fell to its lowest level in 16 years since August as employers in the six-county region added nearly 7,800 jobs since last year. The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development express that the jobless rate in May fell by half a percentage point to 3.3%. This is the lowest that it has been since May 2001. Employment has grown 3.2% in the past year in Chattanooga and added 7,793 net new jobs in the region. This has enabled Tennessee to have a jobless rate of 4.1% which is down by 0.2% and below the US unemployment rate of 4.7% which was indicated last month and noted as the lowest since April 2001.

Unemployment Down Across All Tennessee Counties

Name of Counties Unemployment Rate Fall in Percentage
Bradley 2.8 percent down 0.7 percent
Hamilton 2.9 percent down 0.7 percent
Franklin 3 percent down 0.7 percent
Coffee 3.1 percent down 0.5 percent
McMinn 3.3 percent down 1.0 percent
Polk 3.5 percent down 0.9 percent
Van Buren 3.5 percent down 0.8 percent
Marion 3.6 percent down 0.9 percent
Sequatchie 3.7 percent down 0.8 percent
Meigs 3.9 percent down 0.8 percent
Grundy 4.1 percent down 0.7 percent
Bledsoe 4.5 percent down 1.2 percent
Rhea 5.1 percent down 1.5 percent

Source: Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development

Across all 95 counties in Tennessee, unemployment rate since April 2017 has decreased. These results were published by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Last year, eight counties had an unemployment rate of above 6% but since April 2017 the entire state has reached a formidable level. TDLWD Commissioner Burns Phillips expressed that there was still work to be done to ensure that Tennessee is putting people to work.

Top 10 Counties with the Lowest Unemployment Rate

Rank County Pre. Rate (%)
1 Williamson 2.6
2 Davidson 2.7
3 Rutherford 2.9
4 Wilson 2.9
5 Sumner 2.9
6 Moore 3.0
7 Maury 3.0
8 Cheatham 3.1
9 Lincoln 3.1
10 Giles 3.1

Counties with the Highest Unemployment in Tennessee

Rank County Pre. Rate (%)
95 Rhea 6.6
94 Lauderdale 6.0
93 Cocke 5.9
92 Jackson 5.8
91 Bledsoe 5.7
90 Houston 5.5
89 Hancock 5.5
88 Scott 5.5
87 Stewart 5.4
86 Obion 5.4

Comparison from 2008 Economic Turmoil

The 2008 Economic turmoil had serious repercussions in America. Employment in the US peaked till February 2008. After which employment continued to see a free fall nationally until February 2010 where there was a slow recovery. The decline, however, ended earlier in Tennessee during mid-2009 and this continued to bottom out for close to a year before the consistent recovery in April 2010. This recovery was a whole two months later than the national recovery. Even after 5 years since the recession by December 2012, US employment was still at 2.4% less than the previous peak and Tennessee was 2.5% less. Construction employment did not bottom out in 2008 in Tennessee but only did two years later. Though construction has seen some improvement, it would take another four to five years to return to its previous peak.Unlike other recoveries, there is a slow recovery in this sector. Employment in the information sector has been falling since 2001. Hiring was flat from 2003 to 2007 and the recession sent it into further decline. Employment in IT has declined by 17.3% in Tennessee since the early 2008 peak as compared to the national 12%. The information industry includes publishing industries, software publishing, motion picture and sound recording industries, broadcasting and telecommunications industries, information services and data processing industries.

Though employment has remained stable in the US and seen a significant dip in the jobless rate, Tennessee has remained strong and unemployment levels have dropped significantly. If you are still unemployed then you can try the Benefits Calculator to figure out the benefits that you are eligible for.

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  1. I applied for unemployment on 8-1 and was approved. I received my letter of eligibility and debit card about a week ago. I did not file my intitial bi weekly claim because I missed the deadline by 1 day (didn’t realize they would be closed on Saturday). When I logged on it said I would have to reopen a claim because mine had been closed. I filled out the online form to deactivate the claim. My question is this: will I have another waiting week? And will unemployment have to contact my employer all over again to verify my wages and go through the entire process all over again or will they just reopen the claim with a new date window to file?

  2. Lost my job in 10/2018 due to plant closure, collected vacation and severance pay. Opened a claim in 1/2019. Got an on the job training job through career link in 5/2019 worked one week and became very sick and was off for two weeks VA could not find anything wrong but gave me medication for the symptoms and an excuse to return to work, prior to returning got a call from my recruiter at career link telling me the position was filled so i did not return. Reopened my claim, a few weeks later got a letter informing me the employer had appealed and said i did not return, had a hearing and the employer did not show but i lost and got a 2500.00 over payment. Got a temp job through an agency but have only worked 4 days in two weeks. Reopened my claim and was told i need to earn 2604.00 from current employer before it can be opened, did i do something wrong? Still applying for work but am days away from losing everything, need income to pay bills. PLEASE HELP

    1. Rodney,

      Your eligibility to claim UI benefits depends on multiple factors including monetary eligibility. If you’ve been officially told about the shortage of earnings, there’s nothing much one can do. If you’re still confident of winning the appeal, please make a strong case.

      1. I live in KY but my base wages were from earnings in GA when I lived there. I’ve exhausted my benefits in KY. Am I able to now file through GA since my earnings through 10/18 came from there?

        1. Dee,

          As much as I am aware, Unemployment Insurance is a one time cycle. Please call the Unemployment Office in GA for more.

  3. The hours at work have been cut due to lack of business for every department.
    So all full-time positions are now part-time.
    How do I file for partial unemployment?
    The only options I see (in Texas) are for full unemployment.

    1. Eric,

      You should be able to claim partial UI benefits. Please consider applying online until full hours are restored.

    1. William,

      If everything goes well, it should not take more than 7-10 business days (waiting week). Please call the Claims Center for more.

  4. I was employed by a VA company for 5 years, my contract ended yesterday (07/31/19), however, I worked remotely for those 5 years and live in FL, which state do I apply to for my unemployment benefits?

    1. Oscar,

      Please check with your employer if they remitted UI taxes into the system. Contract workers are generally not eligible.

        1. Oscar,

          In that case, please go ahead and apply if your employer remitted UI taxes into the system.

    2. You apply in Virginia…however, I worked seasonally and they used a ‘quarter’ that was empty, so even though my employer paid in, I only got a 1/3 of what I should have received. Figured that out later :/ They will also question WHY you aren’t able and available to work IN Virginia. They froze my account for about a month.

  5. I worked 37 years with the same company in Texas. On July 2nd of 2018, I was let go due to workforce reduction. I signed up for benefits several months later and now have drawn my 26 weeks of benefit. Is there any program currently open in Texas or federally that will extend additional money while job seeking?

    1. Lonnie,

      The E.U.C(Emergency Unemployment Compensation) remains expired. There is no extension available. Please inquire further with the labor authorities in your state by calling them.

  6. I have been an employee of my company for 34 yrs. My position is being eliminated but I have been offered another position for less money. It is a much more physical job that I am not sure I can perform well. I am 75. If I try to fulfill the position and cannot do it, will I still be able to get benefits if I quit? They want me to try it for a couple of weeks to see if I am strong enough and if I can afford the cut in pay.

    1. Lynda,

      I suggest you call the Unemployment Office to find out about eligibility before making a decision on continuation.

      1. I recently lost my job..i was late for work and they took me off the schedule..never told me i was fired..didnt ask for uniforms back. Another cook was andd has been late for work and he didnt get taken off the schedule.can i still get unemployment?

        1. Kandie,

          Please note UI benefits are only offered to claimants who lose employment due to no fault of their own. You can call the Unemployment Office for clarification.

  7. Are there any training benefits or programs that will pay for an advanced degree, such as a PhD which is needed to become more employable?

    1. There are multiple training programs administered by the Labor Department in each state. For more info, please call visit the official website of the Unemployment Office.

  8. I’m about to exhaust my Unemployment benefits. I was laid off from my first job and
    found employment then I lost my job and became unemployed again. I applied for benefits and have have almost exhausted my benefits but have not found employment. Can I file for an extension?

    1. Deanna,

      The E.U.C(Emergency Unemployment Compensation) remains expired. There is no extension available. Please inquire further with the labor authorities in your state by calling them.

  9. After reading your article it’s still not clear to me about requirements surrounding moving to another state and completing/continuing to collect. I have 8 weeks eligibility left, I am moving from MA to FL. The end of your article says: “Since it’s all virtual (online), you may still consider the option of continuing your claims from the base state even if you move to a different one until completion. As a responsible claimant, it’s your duty to inform the base state about your movement to ensure there are no hassles in the near future.”

    So it sounds like even once I am in new state I am eligible to continue to collect from my base state. I can just continue to do my required weekly job search and reporting to and filing in my base state (I do it via phone call-in). No need to complicate things by doing some crazy state transfer of benefits. Benefits also done via direct bank deposit and no need to change anything. Do I even need to tell my base state I am now living in a new state? Why? Thank you.

    1. Paul,

      For the ease of understanding, each state has its specific rules and laws with regard to administering Unemployment Benefits. It might be an obligation for a claimant to inform about the movement. For clarification, please call the Unemployment Office and speak to a representative.

  10. I was recently fired from my work 25-June-2019/due to me not meeting their “standards/ expectations” i submitted my UE claim on 28-June and have not received any pay as of today, 19-July. The status is currently “adjudication in progress,” my question is, should i be worried this will be denied? I read the FAQ on the UE webpage and it said only a couple applications require the adjudication process. How long does this process usually take to get the final answer of whether I’m denied or approved? The website stated it susuallt takes ~25 days for the adjudication process, does this mean once that’s done then i still have to wait another 2-6 weeks for final processing after? THANK YOU SOO MUCH to whomever is able to provide me with some answers/ input.

    ** this is my first time ever being fired or having to file for unemployment so i really have nooooo idea what is standard or normal or whatever. I feel like an idiot with my simple questions but it would bring me so much relief having them answered, truly

    1. Talia,

      I can understand your reason for the anxiety. Adjudication is a fact-finding process where both the claimant and the employer will get an opportunity to present their case. During this process, make sure to produce supporting documents that amplify your stance. For all you know, the adjudication can be a lengthy process.

      Best Wishes!

  11. I was permanently severanced from my job due to a Co. Reorg & received my last severance pay last week. I called UE & was told that I should now do my application online since I will no longer be getting funds & still without a job & that this coming Sunday regardless of knowing if I will or will not get benefits yet that I should still file a weekly claim in case of UE back pay.
    So my question is, do I still have to report 4 jobs applied to within this week, even if I do not know if I will be approved/denied for benefits until possibly next week anyway?

    1. Lynda,

      You should continue to report the job applications as long as you’ve been asked to do so. There will be a “Waiting Period” and the first payment will take about 7-10 days after which they’ll flow much quicker. Please call the Claims Center for clarification.

  12. I tried to transfer from one state to another. When I left Montana I was told there would be no problem transferring. When I arrived in North Carolina I had trouble reaching the area manager by phone. When he finally called me back he said to meet him for lunch to discuss when and where I would be working. He did not show up for lunch. Then he never returned any of my calls. I went PA to visit a friend a few weeks later and tried there. I met with the hiring manager and was told there should not be a problem doing the transfer since I was still in the system. I called the store a few times and they said it was still pending. Then I was terminated without even a phone call. Am I eligible for unemployment and if so do I file in Montana or North Carolina. I still have a Montana drivers license but I am living in NC.

    1. Stacey,

      As long as you were unemployed involuntarily, you should be able to claim UI benefits. Please consider applying.

  13. I have worked for 32+ years and recently have become unable to work due to health reasons, so I have had to resign from my job. I have contacted SS and will be able to apply for disability but it will take awhile to process. Can I apply for unemployment benefits? I live in WV.

    1. Sandra,

      UI benefits are only extended to claimants who lose their employment due to involuntary reasons. Please reach out to the Unemployment Office for more.

  14. I had to quit my job at Walmart in Fairmont West Virginia and moved back to my home state ky, I’ve got a son with drug problems and 3 older sisters that are not doing so well in health cause of their age. I didn’t understand about the transfer part they had at Walmart that I could put a date when I could start back because of my car problems I thought when I left I had to go in like in s few days, I’ve applied here at Walmart in Winchester ky 40391 two times already plus dollar store, speedway, truck stop, bp, a few other places it’s been going on 7 months without a job I live with my son and its getting harder on him paying rent and utilities and food, not to mention our personal hygiene stuff I really need help I have no income coming in to help him and his wife out I get foodstamps and Medicaid I was praying I could qualify for unemployment PLEASE HELP!!!

    1. Vicky,

      I can understand your situation. Unfortunately, UI benefits are only extended to claimants who lose employment due to involuntary reasons. Please call the Unemployment Office for further clarification.

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