State jobless rate lower than nation's

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

With more numbers to be released this week, the state's labor department reports Tennessee's unemployment rate dropped below the nation's rate for the first time in 14 months.

Meanwhile, another job fair at the Goodwill Career Solutions Center at The Acres shopping center has been rewarding for Lewisburg resident Margo Venable, a licensed certified nursing assistant who wanted a better job.

Aid & Assist at Home LLC partnered with the Goodwill during a job fair on Feb. 16. About 20 of the 35 applicants may be in Aid & Assist jobs when background checks are completed.

"That's entirely conceivable," Maggie Throckmorton, an Aid & Assist regional manager said late last week. "The applicants were good. The folks who came in were very eager. It takes a great heart to work in this field. It's exciting to walk away with a high quality applicant."

Venable will be one of the people in Marshall County's workforce who will be counted as employed. The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development's latest figures are for January. Statisticians reported the rate was 8.2 percent statewide. Marshall's rate was 12.2 percent during December, reflecting a decrease from the November rate of 12.7 percent. January figures for counties are expected Thursday.

"This month the numbers show an increase of 12,700 jobs so we are seeing positive growth in private industry," state labor Commissioner Karla Davis said last week. "The net gains are chipping away at the dramatic loss of jobs during the recession."

She cited three examples.

* Tennessee's unemployment rate is below the U.S. rate for the first time since November 2010.

* The number of unemployed persons (257,500) is the lowest since November 2008.

* The number of employed persons (2,877,300) is the highest since March 2008.

Better employment numbers were noticed by Republican U.S. Rep. Diane Black of Lebanon. She represents Marshall County in Congress until January. Reapportionment places Marshall County in the district now represented by Scott DesJarlais.

Friday, amid news that the national unemployment rate remained unchanged at 8.3 percent and that the economy added 227,000 jobs in February, Black praised House passage of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, and called on the president and the Senate to enact more pro-growth policies.

Tuesday, March 6, was Venable's first day on her new job.

"I had been looking," Venable said. "I had been working for a facility and decided I wanted to do something different, like home care."

With more than 1,000 caregivers across the state, Aid & Assist at Home provides services in all 95 counties through seven regional offices. Licensed by the Tennessee Department of Mental Health, Aid & Assist at Home's wide range of non-medical support services aims to help families function and make daily life easier.

"It is a growing field," Throckmorton said. "The older the population gets ... the more employees we will need."

Aid & Assist at Home has corporate offices in Nashville and seven regional offices. An eighth regional office is planned. The closest is in Columbia.

Venable went straight from her company training class to a job site in Fayetteville where she provides respite care in a family home where an elderly woman is served so her child and an in-law could continue their employment.

Philip and Margo Venable relocated here six years ago, she said. Originally from Illinois, they have seven children. The Catholic grandparents have a 16th grandchild on the way. Three of their children live in Lewisburg. Three still live "up north" and one lives in West Virginia. Philip is an industrial electrician working for Team Electric in Smyrna.

She praised the Goodwill's services like helping with resumes and answering questions.

"That's what I originally went for," Venable said. "When I saw Aid & Assist was having a job fair, I went home and came back ready (to apply.)"

She "loves" her job, "making people comfortable in their own home," Venable said of providing in-home care for someone in need, but who does not require professional medical attention.

"I think they're more comfortable with their belongings around them," Venable said. "When you take that away from them, you add to their problems. It could be an elderly person who loves to lie on the couch to watch TV.

"I had left a facility in October," she continued, explaining that she was "teetering with an issue at the facility" where she was working. It was that "There's only so much time for people...

"Here, I can get done what I need to do, have a conversation with them, or play cards," she said. "You want a regular routine without one health care person in and then another. You want someone who knows their idiosyncrasies."

There's something else that made Margo happy about her new job. Her pay went up.