(Times Free Press) - After winning Tennessee's top industrial recruitment prizes in 2008 and 2009 with billion dollar-plus investments from Volkswagen and Wacker Chemical, Southeast Tennessee landed the state's biggest job generator in 2011 with a pair of Amazon distribution centers.

Combined with other expansions at Alstom Power, Whirlpool, Chattem and VW suppliers during the past three years, business additions already have pumped nearly $2 billion of investments and added more than 7,500 full-time and temporary jobs to the Chattanooga region.

But coming during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, those additions were swamped by job losses at existing companies. Despite job gains during in the past two years, the severe employment drop in 2008 and 2009 has left metropolitan Chattanooga with nearly 15,000 fewer employed people than in 2007, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Economists expect improved job prospects in 2012, but it may be at least a couple more years before Chattanooga gets back to its pre-recession job levels.

Read more about this story from our news partners at the Chattanooga Times Free Press.