When the second work week of March ended on Friday, March 13, most Scott Countians were still working in the jobs they had been at for the 2020 calendar year to date. There were only 143 local workers counted as being unemployed. But one of the biggest workforce upheavals in modern history was at hand, as dominoes began to topple in the coronavirus pandemic, putting the U.S. on a pathway towards a shutdown that was intended to contain the public health crisis.
One week later, unemployment claims in Scott County had risen only modestly. There were 41 new unemployment claims, compared with just nine new claims a week earlier. That was a sign of what was to come, as the wave of temporary business closures or employment rollbacks descended on rural America.
By the following week, ending March 28, unemployment claims had begun to skyrocket in Scott County. One month later, on April 25, unemployment claims peaked at 1,115 — nearly one in every five Scott County workers were without work.
Since that time, unemployment claims have been in decline — albeit a slow decline — and as November nears its end, those jobless claims are finally returning to near pre-pandemic levels in Scott County.
For the week ending November 14, there were 183 total unemployment claims in Scott County. It’s the first time that number has been below 200 since March 28. One week earlier, unemployment claims were at 211. A month ago, they were still near 300.
That doesn’t mean the economy is all the way back. Initial claims remain elevated compared to the weeks before the pandemic hit, suggesting some frailty in the job market. Last week, there were nearly two dozen initial job claims in Scott County — 23 workers who are newly without a job. That’s almost three times the number of initial claims in the final week before the pandemic began to impact the economy back in March.
But it’s a significant improvement over where the economy was even a month ago. In the second week of October, there were twice as many initial unemployment claims — 43 in all.
The TN Dept. of Labor & Workforce Development reported Thursday that Tennessee employers added nearly 25,000 jobs between September and October — even as the state’s unemployment rate edged upward.
The preliminary unemployment rate in Tennessee for October was 7.4%, up from 6.5% in September. County-level unemployment rates will be released on Wednesday.