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Tennessee's worst unemployment in a generation - 14.7 percent in April


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Mike Osborne)  --  Labor officials report that Tennessee's unemployment rate for April is the highest in living memory, thanks to the ongoing health crisis.


In a press statement released Thursday afternoon, the Tennessee Department of Labor revealed April’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate soared to 14.7 percent. That’s more than 11 percent points higher than the previous month, and also higher than the April, 2019, rate by the same margin.


The U.S. National unemployment rate also stands at 14.7 percent.


Labor officials says Tennessee saw the largest job losses in leisure, hospitality, manufacturing, business, and professional services.


Since early March, a staggering number of Tennesseans have either been laid off or furloughed in response to the pandemic. State Labor officials reported Thursday morning that more than 532,000 workers have filed initial claims for jobless benefits over the past two months.


An unemployment rate of 14.7 percent is more than four percentage points higher than the worst monthly rate recorded during the Great Recession between 2007 and 2009.


Labor officials note the previous all-time high worst jobless rate occurred in December of 1982 and January of 1983 when Tennessee recorded 12.9 percent unemployment. April’s shocking figure is still well below the peak of the 24.9 percent nationwide jobless rate recorded during the Great Depression of the 1930s.


The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development is struggling to meet the challenge of providing jobless benefits to workers who suddenly find themselves idled by coronavirus. The department has added hundreds of new staff, beefed up its online claims portal, and installed additional phone bank capacity.


However, complaints remain widespread from laid off workers who say they still have not received even one benefit payment. The state says it doled out nearly $359 million dollars this past week alone to more than 319,000 Tennessee claimants.


There are two small bits of good news in Tennessee’s unemployment picture. The number of residents filing initial unemployment claims has fallen steadily since early April. Just over 28,000 laid off or furloughed workers filed initial claims for benefits last week. The number of Tennesseans filing continuing claims also fell slightly last week, suggesting at least some employees are returning to work.


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