Unemployment improves in Shelby County, but thousands of jobs remain open in Tennessee

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — New state unemployment numbers show Shelby County is actually improving, but it’s still the second-worst in Tennessee.

That leaves many who work in small businesses wondering how much longer they can stay afloat.

WREG checked in on the state’s JobsforTN program to see how their changes are going this year.

Heather Williams is starting her own business. That’s because with two kids at home, she couldn’t keep her sales job during the pandemic.

“Daycares are barely open and if they are, it’s very scary,” Williams said. “The stress of having to make those sales, plus my post-partum, it was either I quit or they were gonna let me go.”

She’s not alone. The latest numbers show about a 7{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1} unemployment rate in Shelby County. However, that is an improvement since October.

“I’ve never seen more open positions listed on jobs4TN than there are right now,” said Chris Cannon with the Tennessee Department of Labor.

The Jobs4TN website has more than 240,000 open jobs across the state, ranging from retail associate in Collierville to a staff scientist at Saint Jude.

“Some businesses have been impacted by the pandemic but other businesses have thrived,” Cannon said. “These employers need employees to come to work for them because if they don’t they wont be able to grow their businesses.”

That’s why back in March, the state launched the Tennessee Talent Exchange, Specifically connecting restaurant and hospitality workers with jobs in industries that had openings.

But realistically, not all jobs are a fit for everyone.

In Williams’ case, she can’t leave her kids unattended and she doesn’t want to risk picking up the virus and passing it on to her son who has breathing problems. She, like many others, has to stay home.

That’s why state officials say they have special unemployment benefits available during the pandemic.

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