Mid-state economist: Tenn. unemployment jump no cause for concern

Mar 10, 2015

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WMOT)  --  Tennessee’s unemployment rate rose in January after several months of steady decline, but a mid-state economist says it's no cause for alarm.

The Tennessee Department of Labor says the jobless rate inched up one-tenth-of-one-percent in January to 6.6 percent. The rate had fallen steadily since last July.

Mid-state economist Murat Arik isn’t concerned by the uptick. He says Tennessee’s economy has created a healthy 70,000 new jobs in the past year.

Arik, who heads the Business and Economic Research Center at Middle Tennessee State, does say that the Tennessee labor force has some structural problems that need long-term solutions.

He says Tennessee employers are having trouble finding workers with the right education to fill today’s high-tech jobs. He also says workers laid off during the economic downturn now have out of date job skills and will need to be re-trained.

“It takes time, but it’s an issue. It’s kind of a lingering thing. It’s going to take time to move them into a new generation of workforce.”

Arik applauds Gov. Bill Haslam’s “Drive to 55” initiative designed to increase the number of Tennesseans with a technical certificate or a college degree.

Dr. Arik also says Middle and East Tennessee are doing relatively well, but high unemployment in West Tennessee is dragging the statewide jobless numbers lower.