State jobless rate dips below 8 percent - WSMV Channel 4

State jobless rate dips below 8 percent

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV-AP) -

There is some positive news when it comes to jobs in Tennessee. New unemployment numbers were released Thursday which show the state's March unemployment rate has dropped .01% to 7.9%, the eighth straight month of decline.

Karla Davis, commissioner of Labor & Workforce Development, said Thursday it's the lowest rate since November 2008.

The national figure for March was 8.2%, down 0.1% from February.

Davis said the state lost jobs in March, but the number of unemployed declined at a faster rate.

Kevin Figgins was laid off in January, and he spends a lot of time looking for a new job.

"I have five kids and I really need a job," he said.

State lawmakers say most of the unemployed are actively looking for new jobs, but they believe a few are taking advantage of the system by living off the check and not looking for work.

"While he's getting mailbox money, the employer is paying taxes for him to stay in an easy boy chair," said State Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster.

That's costing small business owners like State Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, to see his unemployment taxes skyrocket.

"Get off your butt and go to work. I'm glad to see us put some stuff back in to make sure they are doing the right thing not only to the taxpayers but also to the men and women who create jobs in Tennessee," Faison said.

A bill passed Thursday would make it more difficult for employees fired for cause, such as chronic absenteeism, to collect benefits. The bill also would require those receiving unemployment benefits to prove they are searching for work.

The state would audit 1,000 claimants a week to make sure they are following the rules.

But, some lawmakers are worried this might hurt more than it helps.

"In order to get rid of the bad employee, we're going to hurt good employees," said State Rep. Mike Turner, D-Old Hickory.

Some of the changes are modeled after new federal laws, but Tennessee's plan goes further by requiring the unemployed to show they have applied for three jobs a week or visited a local career center.

The legislation still needs to pass the Senate, and it's expected to come up next week.

Copyright WSMV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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