Tennessee Rises From Nation's Economic Ashes

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Newly released data shows the national economy to be stagnant, but Tennessee appears to be on the rise with the recent announcement of new jobs coming to the state and continued construction.

Nashville alone gained 6,800 jobs from April 2010 to April 2011, according to figures released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Tennessee saw employment in its construction sector grow by 3.1 percent over the same time period, the third-highest growth rate in the country, according to The Associated General Contractors of America.

Construction employment growth nationally remained sluggish and uneven in May as nearly half – 22 states plus the District of Columbia – added jobs over the past year while the remaining states all lost construction jobs, shows the AGC analysis of state employment data released by the Labor Department.

Association officials said the figures reflect the fact that industry-wide employment has stagnated as the result of tepid demand for most private construction and declines in public construction.

Tennessee was one of 19 states to add construction jobs over the last year. According to the AGC, April’s data marks the best annual employment growth since February 2008.

The state’s unemployment rate rose slightly from 9.6 percent in April to 9.7 percent in May; however, the number of employed Tennesseans increased by 78,500 from May 2010 to May 2011.

“The slight increase in the unemployment rate is attributed to significant growth in the labor force,” Tennessee Commissioner of Labor & Workforce Development Karla Davis said.

“It is not uncommon for the jobless rate to increase when an economy is improving. The rate can go up because workers are entering the labor force faster than the economy is creating jobs.”

She added that for the fifth month in a row, the labor force is at a record level as more and more jobseekers are optimistic about their possibilities of finding work. The number of employed Tennesseans is the highest since September 2008.

Coupled with a 5.3 percent increase in single-family permits and 9.4 percent growth in total construction permits during the same time frame, Nashville – and its surrounding metropolitan area – isn’t in bad shape, numbers released by MTSU’s Business and Economic Research Center show.

Even the number of state sales tax collections grew 2.5 percent year over year.

Then there’s the stimulus of the week-long Country Music Awards and Fan Fair, which drew an estimated 70,000 people to Nashville, and Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, which sold all of its 80,000 tickets.

Last year, the two festivals reportedly injected $24 million and $20 million, respectively, into their home communities, with spillover into surrounding counties.

Tennessee’s growth in its gross state product in 2010 was sixth best in the country, according to an analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis by On Numbers.

Its gross state product — a measurement of the total output of goods and services, akin to gross domestic product — grew by 3.52 percent in 2010.

The commitment of General Motors, Nissan and Volkswagen suppliers to the state and, most recently, the commitment by IQT, Inc. to establish its U.S. headquarters and create 900 jobs in downtown Nashville further promises economic growth throughout Tennessee.

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