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Unemployment rates down in Tennessee

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Bill Haslam

We received some exciting news last month when we learned that for the first time ever recorded, 94 counties had an unemployment rate below 5 percent.

Additionally, the state's unemployment rate for May dipped down to 4 percent, down from 4.7 percent in April. The last time our state saw a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 4 percent was in March 2001.

Tennessee's unemployment rate now stands better than the national unemployment rate of 4.3 percent, and our state has seen gains in both urban and rural areas.

Few things can improve the quality of life like a job, so we are especially pleased by these recent statistics. We've put a lot of energy into making sure we have the best environment for job creation, and we believe the strides we've made in K-12 education and programs such as Tennessee Promise and Reconnect, which make Tennessee the first state in the nation to offer all citizens the chance to earn a postsecondary degree or certificate free of tuition and fees, are game-changing economic development strategies.

Ever since we took office in 2011, we have emphasized that government does not create jobs. Jobs are created when capital is put at risk. But government can create a climate where businesses see an attractive environment for investing in and creating jobs for Tennesseans.

While our lowest unemployment rates are found in more heavily populated centers, we also saw improvements in rural areas. The county with the highest unemployment rate for May, Rhea County, was at 5.1 percent, but that was a drop from 6.6 percent in April and down from 6.5 percent in May of 2016. And Rhea County received some exciting news last month when Nokian Tyres announced the company will build a new tire manufacturing facility in Dayton and create at least 400 new jobs after passage of the IMPROVE Act.

We continue to work hard on improving the economy in our rural areas. We are taking a comprehensive approach with our Rural Task Force, headed by our commissioners of Agriculture, Economic and Community Development, and Tourist Development. That's why, for example, we pushed for and signed legislation like the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act. Currently, more than 800,000 Tennesseans don't have access to broadband internet, and one in three businesses identified it as essential to selecting their location. The new law will spur development in those areas and open them up to more economic investment and growth.

We have made job growth one of our priorities from the first day we took office, working hard to make Tennessee an attractive state for investment and job creation, and we'll continue work to build on the momentum we're seeing with these unemployment figures.

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