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Professor addresses JEDB

The Joint Economic Development Board held a meeting on Friday, Oct. 17, at Erwin Town Hall.
While there were not enough board members present to establish a formal quorum, those in attendance were greeted with the opportunity to hear a presentation from one of the area’s leading business experts.
Dr. Steb Hipple, Ph.D, is a professor of economics at East Tennessee State University. He is a member of the Department of Economics and Finance and a research associate with the Bureau of Business and Economic Research.
He was on hand to give a presentation regarding the current state of the national economy and how it ties in with Unicoi County.
“Our labor market is in the worst condition since the 1930s,” said Hipple. “Many economists say that the current unemployment rate is a useless statistic.”
The current unemployment rate, which is around 6 percent, is useless and misleading, according to Hipple.
While the current presidential administration has preached an increase in job growth, Hipple said that the “increase” is more closely connected with other factors. He said that the unemployment rate has decreased because many who were laid off from jobs during the Great Recession have simply stopped looking for new employment due to the lack of quality jobs available. When a person stops looking for employment, they are no longer considered unemployed; they are removed from the job market numbers altogether. A person who is unemployed is defined as someone who is actively looking for employment, yet has no current job.
According to Hipple, the standard for the job economy participation rate is usually around 66 or 67 percent. The current participation rate is around 63 percent. This drop in participation accounts for the decrease in the unemployment rate, he said.
Essentially, Hipple indicated that the numbers cancel out, leaving the job market in similar condition as Recession-era numbers. Additionally, many of the new jobs that have been created are low-paying jobs for workers who are overqualified. Some full-time positions have been knocked down to part time as well. All of the said factors play into the current status of the employment rate.
Hipple said there are many parallels between the current economic situation and the 1930s.
“In the 1930s, it was stocks; in 2009, it was the housing market,” said Hipple on what was the tipping point for the respective economic downturns.
Hipple said that while the region was initially spared from the first wave of the Great Recession, the area was still hit hard and has seen a very slow recovery. Even so, some of the recovery numbers can be tied to other outside factors.
Hipple said that many young people in Unicoi County and surrounding regions have simply stopped looking for jobs and moved back home with their parents, thus making them exempt from the numbers. Also, Hipple said that many people have simply left the area.
Hipple said that the recovery in Unicoi County and surrounding region has seen a slower recovery than other parts of the country.
Hipple concluded his presentation by taking a few questions after which the meeting unofficially adjourned. Again, no formal quorum was established so no motion was made to adjourn.