On August 27th, Tennessee released its updated county-by-county unemployment rates. Although unemployment rates didn’t matter under the “old” law, under the “new” law, the unemployment rate can be an important factor in calculating the Claimant’s vocational disability if there is no meaningful return to work. Under the new law, if the Claimant does not return to any employment earning his pre-injury average weekly wage by the conclusion of the initial compensation period, the Claimant is entitled to receive additional compensation due to the statutory enhancement factors. One of those factors, worth an additional 30% of the original disability payout, is if the Claimant’s county of residence has an unemployment rate in excess of 2% above the statewide unemployment rate.
When the law was first passed, there were two counties that met this criteria, but as the economy in the Nashville and Knoxville areas have improved, the statewide average has dropped to 5.7%, whereas a number of counties in more rural areas have remained stuck in the 8%-10% range. Among those counties in excess of 2% above the statewide average are: Benton, Bledsoe, Campbell, Carroll, Claiborne, Clay, Cocke, Decatur, DeKalb, Dyer, Fentress, Gibson, Grundy, Hancock, Hardin, Haywood, Henderson, Houston, Jackson, Lake, Lauderdale, Lewis, McNairy, Meigs, Morgan, Obion, Overton, Perry, Pickett, Rhea, Scott, Stewart, Tipton, Unicoi, Van Buren, and Weakley.
As you can see, the rising tide isn’t necessarily lifting all boats!
For a complete listing of unemployment rates by county, see https://www.tennessee.gov/assets/entities/labor/attachments/LaborJULY2015.pdf