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Jobless in Memphis

City's unemployment rate above the state and national averages.



For many Memphians, finding a gig in today's economy isn't an easy task. And it may not get easier anytime soon if the trending unemployment rate continues.

The national unemployment rate rose from 8.1 percent in April to 8.2 percent in May, the first increase in 11 months, according to the U. S. Department of Labor.

However, in Tennessee, the unemployment rate rose by two-tenths of a percent from 7.7 percent in April to 7.9 percent in May, according to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Although the state average is lower than the national average, the city of Memphis has a higher unemployment rate than both. In April, the city had an unemployment rate of 8.4 percent, which equates to 51,000 residents. The local rate for May was not released as of press time.

Deshannon Wright is among the unemployed Memphians.

"I've looked under every brick, through every bush, and jumped over every wall trying to find a job," said Wright, who's been unemployed for four months. "I had to sell my car and move back home. I have two children, and we're living off food stamps."

Memphian Michah Jenkins, who hasn't had a job in more than a year, was recently forced to move back in with her parents after living on her own for 10 years.

"I've tried so hard to find a job," Jenkins said. "I was picky at one point, but now I'll take whatever. I just need a source of income so I can live."

Despite the increase in unemployment nationwide, local economists don't think citizens should panic.

"One of the things that everyone who analyzes data should be aware of is that one month does not make a trend," said John Gnuschke, director of the Sparks Bureau for Business and Economic Research at the University of Memphis. "We have been trending down for a long time, and that is the pattern we should expect to see continue as long as the economy remains on a slow but steady growth path. Month-to-month variations up or down are difficult to interpret."  

Although the city's unemployment rate is higher than the state and national averages, it's still seen a decline since the 8.8 percent jobless rate in March. This also appears to be the case in Shelby County.

In March, the county's unemployment rate was 9.1 percent, but by April it had dropped to 8.3 percent.

Regardless of small jobless rate decreases and "slow and steady growth," Memphian Darren Guinn hasn't had luck in the job department for years. He's fallen so hard on his luck that he was forced to move in with his brother and sell his car.

"I'm not able to do the things that I want to do. I'm just getting by," said Guinn, who hasn't secured permanent employment in four years. "I'm just trying to make ends meet the best way that I can. I know it's tough everywhere, but I hope it gets better."

Jenkins thinks employers are harder to impress when the job applicant pool is so large.

"I've tried with all sorts of places," Jenkins said. "Toys 'R' Us even said that I didn't have any experience. Places you wouldn't think that you'd need to have experience for [are turning me down]. Just because you don't have the experience doesn't mean that you can't do the job."

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