Unemployment rate in Tennessee hits unprecedented 14.7%
More than half a million Tennesseans have filed for unemployment since March 15, state officials announced.
An onslaught of coronavirus-related furloughs and layoffs brought the state’s unemployment rate to an unprecedented 14.7% in April, according to recently released data.
In the week ending in May 16, 28,692 Tennesseans filed new unemployment claims, bringing the state’s total since pandemic shutdowns took hold to 532,580. Of those claims, 314,487 have continued with weekly certifications.
In the previous week ending in May 9, 29,308 Tennesseans filed for unemployment assistance.
The drop in new claims is the latest in a steady week-over-week decline since the state reached its peak of 116,141 new unemployment claims the week ending in April 4.
Most parts of the state began phased reopenings of select businesses and public places in late April.
Nationally, another 2.4 million people filed new claims last week. In the past nine weeks, a total of 38.6 million Americans have filed for unemployment. The national unemployment rate spiked to 14.7% in April.
Tennessee’s unemployment rate for March registered at a relatively level 3.3% — not reflective of the massive uptick in claims in the latter half of the month — because the federal government surveyed unemployment data in Tennessee from March 8 through 14 to calculate the rate.
April’s 14.7% seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is a staggering 11.4 percentage points higher, and surpasses Tennessee’s previous all-time high of 12.9% in December 1982 and January 1983.
The leisure and hospitality, manufacturing and business services industries were hit the hardest, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The state’s total non-farm workforce plummeted by 376,900 jobs between March and April.
The sudden, unprecedented number of claims quickly overwhelmed the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, resulting in processing delays and website glitches as hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans sought relief.
The department typically processes about 15,000 claims each month. As of May 16, 319,574 claims have been paid to a total of nearly $359 million, $63.9 million of which came from state coffers.
A group of democratic lawmakers called on Gov. Bill Lee and his administration to be more proactive and transparent in assisting constituents who have waited weeks without receiving unemployment benefits.
State Rep. John Clemmons, D-Nashville, said he has received up to 250 emails every day for the last three weeks from people all over the state who are out of money and desperate for help and answers.
Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Jeff McCord said during a phone call with Lee and lawmakers that an estimated 50,000 claims are still being processed.
The department is in the process of adding more adjudicators and claim agents and tackling a “backlog” of help requests submitted by legislators on behalf of their constituents, McCord said.
Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Cassandra Stephenson
The East Tennessee Economic Development Agency markets and recruits business for the 15 counties in the greater Knoxville-Oak Ridge region of East Tennessee. Visit www.eteda.org
Published May 28, 2020