Unemployment rates spiked in both McMinn and Meigs counties in April, largely as a result of the shutdowns related to the coronavirus pandemic.
The rate in McMinn County jumped nearly 14 percentage points to 17.3%, the highest rate ever recorded in the county since record keeping began in 1990.
In Meigs County, the rate skyrocketed to 18.6%, an increase of 14.1% over the March rate and the second highest rate of all-time in the county. The highest rate ever recorded in Meigs is 24.2% in March of 1993.
The two local counties were not alone in seeing their rates spike, however, as all 95 counties across the state saw huge increases. The rate is now between 5% and 10% in only three counties, between 10% and 20% in 79 counties and above 20% in 13 counties.
The counties where the rate remains in single digits are Fayette County (9.4%), Hardeman County (9.7%) and Weakley County (9.6%). Hardeman County saw the smallest rise across the state, with a 5.2% increase.
Regionally, the rate increased more than 10% to 13.5% in Bradley County, more than 11% in Loudon County to 15.2%, more than 18% in Monroe County to 21.9%, almost 10% in Polk County to 13.4% and more than 19% to 24.5% in Rhea County.
The statewide increase was 11.8%, leaving Tennessee’s overall rate at 15%. Nationally, the rate rose 9.9% to settle in at 14.4%.
State of Tennessee Statistical Analyst Patrick Todd said that before they were released, he wasn’t sure what the numbers would look like, given the unusual nature of the situation.
“It was such a wild card, I don’t think that I had expectations,” he said. “It was really anybody’s guess.”
He also said that the uniqueness of this makes it hard to determine how quick the rebound will be.
“I hope the spike is temporary and we’ll recover,” he said. “How fast that’s going to occur is anybody’s guess.”
However, he said he’ll be surprised if it’s a short term correction.
“I wouldn’t expect anything sharp in the next couple of months,” he said. “There will probably be some recovery over the next few months, then it might hit a snag. Elevated unemployment rates could be with us for a while.”
Further complicating matters, he noted, is the seasonal school layoffs of non-teaching personnel. If that gets factored into the rate, he noted, that could extend the high rates.
“That temporary rise may offset any recovery going on,” he said.
For the week ending May 23, there were 26,041 new unemployment claimed across the state, according to the Tennessee Department of Workforce & Development. Of those, 2,494 were filed in the Southeast Tennessee region, the department numbers showed.