Nearly every county in Tennessee ended 2022 with lower unemployment rates, according to the December 2022 data released by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
Eighty-nine of the state’s 95 counties reported rates that decreased in December. Three counties experienced steady unemployment during the month, while unemployment increased in the remaining three counties.
Williamson County led the state with the lowest unemployment rate. At 2.1%, the county’s rate dropped 0.4 of a percentage point from the revised November rate.
Bledsoe County’s rate was the highest in the state, but at 5.3%, unemployment in the county did drop by 0.1 of a percentage point in December.
With a rate of 4.8%, Perry County had the next highest unemployment for the month. Its rate was down 0.2 of a percentage point when compared to the previous month’s rate. Lake County’s unemployment ranked next on the list at 4.7%, down from a rate of 4.8% in November.
Wayne County’s unemployment rate for the month of December 2022 came in at 4.1%, which was the same as the month of November. The unemployment rate in Wayne County has decreased since this time last year, when the rate was 4.3%. The data shows that Wayne County had a total labor force of 6,144 December, with 5,893 employed and 251 unemployed. Wayne County’s unemployment rate was lower in December 2021, which was 3.5%.
December unemployment rates in surrounding counties were lower for the most part than Wayne County, with Lawrence County coming in at 3.0%, Lewis County at 3.1%, and Hardin County at 3.7%. The exception was Perry County, with the second highest unemployment rate in the state, 4.8%
The COVID-19 pandemic seemingly hastened the departure of the aging baby-boom generation from the workforce, and they may not be coming back. Roughly 2.5 million Americans over the age of 55 retired, including more than one million early retirements, leaving a hole in the labor force.
More workers have been moving away from a traditional 9-to-5 office job into jobs with flexible hours or temporary positions. “Gig workers” could include freelancers and contractors, and because they may not be in traditional jobs, they might not be counted as part of the general workforce. If they’re working for themselves, that means they aren’t filling an open position that has been advertised by an employer, leaving that spot unfilled.
Finding someone to care for your child while you’re working continues to be a struggle for working parents. The U.S. Census Bureau found that in the months after the first shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic, 19.6% of adults said they weren’t working due to childcare issues, and that issue continues to be a factor. Demand for childcare has increased due to a decline in childcare workers, making it harder for parents to find openings for their kids at daycares and preschools. Costs have also risen, which means more parents are having to decide between staying in the workforce or quitting their jobs to become full-time stay-at-home parents.
As we all know, inflation has caused prices to rise on products and services across the country, from gas and cars to food and furniture. In order to mitigate the impact of these rising costs, some workers are looking for jobs with higher wages or better benefits. Workers may not feel it’s necessary to take any job for any wage. With plenty of job openings, workers have decided to spend their time as an unemployed worker looking for a job that better fits their salary and benefit needs.
During the pandemic, a wave of workers had to adjust to working from home — and many of them liked it. In fact, 83% of workers in one survey said they enjoy working remotely and 80% said they would be more likely to apply to a job that offers a remote work option. Potential employees are looking for more work-at-home opportunities, offering them more flexibility with their time and much shorter commutes. And they’re willing to hold out for a job that can offer the situation they want.
Mrs. Sarah Cook, Director of Wayne County’s Digital Hub, spoke to The News about employment opportunities in Wayne County. “It really is disheartening to see the number of Wayne Countians who are unemployed when we know jobs are available,” said Cook. “Lots of the job postings we share with the community are for higher paying jobs, such as corrections and healthcare.
“Jobs in skilled trades are also in high demand,” Cook continued. “Carpentry, plumbing, auto mechanics…these are all jobs that can become lifelong careers.”