Haslam questions high jobless rate in Tennessee

Oct 7, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP/WMOT) — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam wants to know why Tennessee's unemployment rate keeps going up.

The national jobless rate currently stands at 5.9 percent — the lowest level since the Great Recession. Tennessee's jobless rate stands 1.5 percent higher at 7.4 percent.

Haslam says Tennessee is adding lots of new jobs and the number of people filing jobless claims is relatively low, so he’s puzzled by the stubbornly high jobless numbers. 

Middle Tennessee State University economist Murat Arik says he hasn’t had time to crunch the numbers yet, but does have a couple of ideas about where the problem might be.

He says many of the companies bringing jobs to Tennessee in recent years, transferred existing employees from other states. He also says many Tennesseans simply don’t have the job skills companies are looking for.

“Over the years we are kind of unable to really mobilize our chronic, unemployed Tennesseans into the mainstream job market and basically helping them to have jobs.”

One of Governor Haslam signature programs was designed to address the problem. The governor’s “Drive to 55” initiative looks to increase the number of Tennesseans with a college degree.