Production lines are gearing back up, and a few more people are going back to work in manufacturing in Tennessee, traditionally among the best-paying jobs in the state.

WelderProduction lines are gearing back up, and a few more people are going back to work in manufacturing here, traditionally among the best-paying jobs in Tennessee just as the national employment picture dims again.

“We generally have seen gains this year, and while the levels are really low, the pattern is at least one of growth,” said University of Tennessee economist Bill Fox.

A 2 percent increase in factory jobs statewide this year has largely been driven by a recovering auto sector, which provides the bulk of Tennessee’s manufacturing work. The growth is particularly strong among small auto-parts suppliers, whose fortunes fell over the past two years as big automakers struggled with poor sales.

“Detroit getting back on its feet is good for Tennessee,” said David Penn, an economist at Middle Tennessee State University. “Our auto suppliers produce not only for plants in the state, but for other states as well.”

Tennessee’s jobless rate was 9.8 percent for July, the state Labor Department said on Thursday. That’s the lowest unemployment rate in almost a year and a half.

Tennessee’s data were much brighter than a companion national report showing that first-time unemployment claims in the U.S. rose last week to 500,000 — a level worse than economists had expected.

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Source: The Tennessean