COVID-19 Has Staggering Impact on Tennessee Unemployment

Statewide Unemployment Rate more than Quadruples during Height of Pandemic
Thursday, May 21, 2020 | 01:30pm

NASHVILLE – Newly released data from the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development revealed the state’s highest-ever unemployment rate amid the COVID-19 health emergency.

The preliminary seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment rate for April 2020 is 14.7%, which is an unprecedented spike of 11.4 percentage points when compared to March’s revised rate of 3.3%.

This is Tennessee’s highest unemployment rate in a generation. Before the pandemic, the state’s all-time highest seasonally adjusted rate was 12.9%, which occurred in back to back months in December 1982 and January 1983.

Total nonfarm employment in Tennessee decreased by 376,900 jobs between March and April. The largest decreases occurred in leisure/hospitality, manufacturing, and professional/business services sectors.

Over the last 12 months, nonfarm employment decreased by 341,000 jobs. Like the month-to-month data, the largest decreases for the year occurred in the leisure/ hospitality, manufacturing, and professional/business services sectors.

Since March 15, Tennessee has seen an unprecedented surge in unemployment claims filed. During the week ending May 16, the state paid more than 319,000 claimants nearly $359 million in unemployment benefits.

Nationally, seasonally adjusted unemployment experienced a similar spike as in Tennessee. The April 2020 rate for the United States is 14.7%. That figure represents a 10.3 percentage point increase from the previous month’s rate.

The statewide unemployment rate is seasonally adjusted to eliminate the influences of weather, holidays, the opening and closing of schools, and other recurring seasonal events from an economic time series.

You can find a complete analysis of Tennessee’s April 2020 unemployment data here.

Tennesseans searching from new employment can find more than 150,000 current job openings on the state’s workforce development website, The site also has information about job retraining opportunities, interviews, and resume techniques, as well as local job data.

The state of Tennessee will release the April 2020 county unemployment rates Thursday, May 28, 2020, at 1:30 p.m. CT.