Is Dalton now the job-loss capitol? - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Is Dalton now the job-loss capitol?

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DALTON, GA (WRCB) -- The unemployment rate is headed back up in Tennessee and in Georgia. In July, the unemployment rate rose three tenths of a point to 8.4 percent. Bledsoe, Grundy, Meigs and Rhea County all have unemployment rates above the average. The lowest were Hamilton, Sequatchie and Bradley counties.

In Georgia, the statewide rate is now at 9.3 percent. In metro Dalton holds the highest rate in the state at 12.5 percent. That's still lower than the rate a year ago, but higher than it was earlier this summer.

The new numbers aren't doing much for morale in Dalton. With one in eight work-eligible persons out of a job, chances are if you live in Dalton either you or someone close to you is struggling to get by.

Labor Department officials point the finger at recent layoffs that have Dalton losing more jobs than any other U.S. city.

"You have to know somebody to get a job around here. It's horrible," Dalton resident Seth Chitwood said.

"This is ridiculous. Something's got to give," Dalton resident Davey Livingston said.
It's been a long and bumpy road to employment for both of these men. Young dad Seth Chitwood graduated in 2010. "It took me two years to find a job here," he said.

Davey Livingston has 30 years of home building experience, but that's unfortunately a field with low demand in the Dalton area in recent years.

"I couldn't get in here with the other contractors because they already had it sewed up," Livingston said.

He says he was lucky to get on at Walmart, but with his girlfriend out of work, making ends meet is still a challenge.  "I'm struggling. They pay us every other week. There's one week, then I'm really dragging in the second week," he said.

"Since 2009, the volume and case load has quadrupled," Salvation Army of Dalton Corps Officer Major Art Fultz said.

The Salvation Army in Dalton says it has gotten increased funding because of the need, but say it's not nearly enough. "It's devastating when you have to look a family in the eye and say we're just simply out of funding," Major Fultz said.

They say local companies, including some plants who've made layoffs, help with donations but there's a constant flow of people asking for help with rent, utility bills and food. "By the time we see them, they're at wits end," Major Fultz said.

Residents fear if more jobs are lost and not created, the pool of people vying for already limited positions will just keep multiplying.

"I can't understand. People coming out of high school now, it's going to be so bad for them," Chitwood said.

"You keep wondering if things can get any worse," Major Fultz said.

Dalton has gotten national attention for its increasing unemployment rate in recent years. In fact, earlier this week, the New York Times had an article as it hit the 12.5 percent mark headlined: "No end to housing bust in 'Carpet Capital of the World."

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