Nashville-area employers finished April having added just 2,000 people versus the March figure, with to a number of important sectors actually shedding jobs.
After months in the red thanks to the massive job losses from the year-ago spread of COVID-19, Middle Tennessee’s nonfarm employment ended April 1,024,300, up an eye-popping 11.8 percent from the mark of a year ago, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the small month-over-month gain mirrored the surprisingly small national gain posted in April and, in addition, March’s initial estimate for the Nashville area was revised down by 1,100 jobs to 1,022,300.
Leading the way in April was the battered leisure and hospitality sector. Local hotels, restaurants and arts and entertainment organizations grew by 4,800 people to nearly 100,000. (Two years ago, the sector employed more than 120,000 locals.) Also doing well were financial companies, which added 1,000 jobs and are now employing more people than they did pre-pandemic.
But those gains were partially offset by losses in manufacturing (-1,500), professional and business services (-1,300), government (-800), construction and trade/transportation (-600 each). A number of those sectors are struggling with supply chain issues. For example, automotive manufacturers have had to curtail work several times of late due to global shortages of semiconductors. And commodity crunches have affected construction work timelines. Issues in both of those sectors likely have spilled over into the trade/transportation sector.
More broadly — and despite the region’s headline unemployment number being below 4.5 percent every month so far in 2021 — it’s clear the Nashville-area job market will need much more time to fully recover from the shock of the COVID recession even if the region outpaces the national recovery. Employers will need to add more than 55,000 jobs by December just to get back to end-of-2019 levels. That would require a rapid acceleration in hiring that doesn’t seem in the cards: From 2015 to 2019, April-to-December gains averaged 33,200.