Posted on: Tuesday - Oct 10, 2017

Posted by: Commissioner Rolfe

Tennessee’s jobless rate fell to 3.3 percent in August from 3.4 percent in July. It’s the third consecutive month Tennessee has hit a record low in unemployment rate and Tennessee now has the lowest unemployment among the dozen states in the Southeast. 

The better news? The jobless rate declined in all 95 Tennessee counties in August. And in many rural counties, which often have the highest unemployment rates in the state, the jobless rate has plummeted significantly.

Year-over-year, the jobless rate in Tennessee has fallen by 1.5 percentage points from 4.8 percent last August to 3.3 percent. During the past year, Tennessee has gained 52,200 net new jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Per capita personal income in Tennessee continues to climb higher. And even as Tennessee moves forward with new higher education initiatives like Tennessee Reconnect and Tennessee Promise, there’s positive news for our future workforce: Graduation rates statewide also hit record highs this past school year.

All of this signals to the strengths of Tennessee’s economy.

TNECD has five long-term objectives we feel are critical to support thriving communities across our state. One of those long-term goals is to lead the Southeast with the lowest unemployment rate by 2025.

While our state has hit that milestone with the drop in unemployment this year, it is important that we continue to focus on ways to make this sustainable well into the future.

The General Assembly has done a tremendous job of establishing policies that make Tennessee an attractive place for job creation and competitive for new economic development projects. Earlier this year, the passage of the Governor’s IMPROVE Act ensured there is appropriate funding for our infrastructure for years to come. This important pro-business legislation also reduced the tax burden on manufacturing businesses in Tennessee and makes our state an even more competitive and attractive place for manufacturers to locate.

Major metro markets such as Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga and Knoxville are a magnet for new jobs and investment. At the same time, we recognize the need to attract jobs and encourage business growth in rural parts of Tennessee, especially in areas with higher unemployment rates.

Our business development team has worked over time to develop a strong pipeline of new business recruitment and existing company expansions this year, with several major announcements in recent months. 

Year to date, TNECD has announced 120 projects with businesses, promising to create approximately 16,070 jobs. Companies have committed to invest more than $3.6 billion of private capital investment.

More than four out of 10 new job commitments have been in rural communities (more than 6,500 total) and 58 companies have announced plans to invest $1.5 billion in rural parts of our state.

There are a few notable projects I would like to highlight, as these new investments underscore the growing confidence employers have in the strength of Tennessee’s workforce.

Last week, DENSO announced the largest investment in Tennessee this calendar year, with plans to invest $1 billion in private capital and create 1,000 jobs in Maryville. As the largest employer in Blount County, DENSO’s expansion will push the company’s statewide headcount to well over 5,000 employees.

There’s also Nokian Tyres based in Finland. The company broke ground this month on a $360 million plant in Dayton that will create 400 jobs. Nokian’s investment is the largest foreign investment in Rhea County’s history.

Meanwhile, Textile Corporation of America announced in July the largest economic development project in Bledsoe County. Textile Corporation of America is establishing its headquarters and manufacturing operations in Pikeville and plans to create 1,000 new jobs. Textile Corporation’s investment is the largest foreign investment in Bledsoe County’s history.

In West Tennessee, Tyson Foods is moving ahead with plans to expand its poultry processing facility in Obion County. Tyson’s $80 million expansion is expected to create 330 new jobs. Further east, Gränges, a global aluminum manufacturer, is investing $110 million to make significant upgrades to the former Noranda plant in Huntingdon. This Swedish firm plans to create about 100 new jobs, further solidifying the plant as Carroll County’s largest manufacturing outfit. 

All of these investments are going to be critically important for their respective communities. 

By offering quality, family-wage jobs, raising household incomes and living standards, we’re confident such projects will have a profound and lasting impact on the residents in these Tennessee communities.

We’re hard at work to close 2017 on a strong note as we continue to attract high quality jobs to Tennessee. To that end, the Governor and I are heading to Asia this week to focus on recruiting additional advanced manufacturing companies to Tennessee. We look forward to sharing the future success of this trip in coming months.