Mid-South unemployment rates reach new pandemic lows

Published: Nov. 8, 2021 at 5:39 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - In the latest jobs report for the month of October, 531,000 Americans entered the labor force, which exceeded the initial prediction of 450,000.

This brings the national unemployment rate to a pandemic low of 4.6 percent, and the Mid-South states are seeing similar numbers.

According to the three states’ latest reports, which is up until September, Mississippi is the highest at 4.7 percent, Arkansas at 4.6 percent, and Tennessee at 4.4 percent.

“It’s getting close to where it was pre-pandemic,” said Chris Cannon with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development (TDOL). “We’re just about .4 away from where we were in March of 2020, so that number continues to go down.”

September numbers mark the fourth straight month all three states’ unemployment rates were lower than the month before.

For Tennessee, Cannon says this is partially due to the resurgence of the leisure and hospitality industry, which saw a 10-percent increase, roughly 28,000 employees, to its workforce from September of 2020.

“That was one of the hardest-hit sectors here in Tennessee,” Cannon said. “Of course, we have Nashville, Memphis, and Gatlinburg, all very big tourist destinations. When they shut down, that really hurt the economy for those areas and really put a lot of people out of work. So, to see that leisure and hospitality sector bounce back is what we really like to see because that means folks are getting back to work and people are coming back to Tennessee.”

For Memphis, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a drop in the city’s Metropolitan area unemployment rate, dropping from 6.1 percent in August to 4.9 percent in September.

Though these latest numbers are exciting for states, in Tennessee there are still 435,000 open positions.

Cannon is excited to see that unemployment rate reach and hopefully pass where the unemployment rate was before the COVID-19 pandemic, especially with TDOL’s workforce training programs.

“It helps companies who are looking to possibly relocate or expand here to know that they have the skilled and qualified workforce here in Tennessee, that when they come here to open their doors, they’re going to have employees to help them produce their product or run their business,” said Cannon.

To find more information about openings in the Mid-South, Mississippians can visit their local WIN Job Center, Arkansas residents can check out Arkansas Workforce Center offices, and Tennesseans can look for their nearest American Job Center.

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