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Knoxville Chamber’s latest “ECO” monthly report examines jobs outlook

By Kailyn Lamb, Marketing Content Writer and Editor, PYA

As businesses reopen or ramp-up operations, many are looking to hire staff but are unable to find people to work. The May edition of the Knoxville Chamber’s “Economic Conditions Outlook” (ECO) begins to look into the debate of whether this is due to COVID-19-related federal unemployment programs, or several other factors.

The latest issue of “ECO,” which is financed by First Horizon Bank, said other factors in the worker shortage could include individuals lacking particular skillsets, lack of childcare, low wages, or a shortage of available workers altogether. Things may become clearer in July after the State of Tennessee stops participating in the four federal pandemic unemployment programs. Currently, unemployed workers across the nation are being given an extra $300 as a weekly supplement. The “ECO” points out that the labor force grew by less than a percent each in the Knoxville Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), Knox County, and Tennessee. There is also an estimated 16,001 unemployed people in the Knoxville area, while there are more than 37,000 active job postings.

The Chamber recently released a report called “Workforce Redefined: A Path to Prosperity Strategy,” which is meant to help create and maintain a qualified and available workforce in the region. Read the full report here.

The latest “ECO” report started with its usual monthly survey of participating businesses from the manufacturing, retail, and service industries. General activity in manufacturing is “improved.” The outlook for the next six months projects “increases” in production, growth rate of orders, volume of shipments, and number of employees. Retail and service businesses also reported that general activity is “improved.” However, in the six-month outlook, retail businesses expect “no change,” while service industry businesses are estimating mostly “increases.”

The Knoxville MSA unemployment rate decreased from March to April, when the rates were 4.5 percent and 3.7 percent respectively. Knox County and the State of Tennessee also showed decreases in the unemployment rate.

Other important trends highlighted in the report were:

  • In the Knoxville MSA, there were 37,465 active job listings in April. This is up 0.2 percent from March. In Knox County, there were 23,485 postings.
  • Knoxville ranked 14th (and number one in Tennessee) in WalletHub’s recent “2021 Best Places to Start a Career” report. The survey analyzed 28 different metrics, including availability of entry-level jobs and average monthly starting salary. Knoxville also ranked 7th in “Professional Opportunities,” and 54th for “Quality of Life.” Read the report here.
  • Home sales in the Knoxville area declined 6.1 percent from March to April. The median sale price in Knoxville was $260,000, which is an increase of 20.9 percent year-over-year. Inventory remains low, and the report says supply will dictate market performance.
  • The Knoxville MSA collected $116.4 million in state sales tax in April, a 30.1 percent increase from March. Knox County collected $74 million, which is also up nearly 30 percent from March.
  • In April, 271 new business licenses were issued, up nearly 75 percent compared to April 2020, but down 5 percent compared to April 2019.

Read the full “ECO” report here.

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