Memphis area recovers all jobs lost in COVID-19 pandemic, hits record-high employment

The Memphis area has now recovered all the jobs lost during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report from the Greater Memphis Chamber

According to the April jobs report, released Monday, the greater Memphis region had recouped the about 70,000 jobs lost during the pandemic as of March. In April the area hit record-high employment of 661,400.

Ted Townsend, chief economic development officer for the chamber, said the rapid recovery was slightly surprising but more so encouraging. It took the Memphis region 10 years to recover from the 2008 recession. 

“So to see this kind of recovery in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic, I think it’s surprising, sure, that element of it is,” he said. “But to us, we’re encouraged about the buoyancy and resiliency that is our economy and the way it is growing.”

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2021 was a record year for economic development in the region with 9,300 jobs announced, which are anticipated to come on board in the next three to five years. Last year also saw a 6.2% increase, or $4.4 billion, in gross regional product. 

Townsend said he expected to see this growth continue. 

Continuing that growth will mean focusing on building a skilled workforce for jobs in supply chain and logistics and advanced manufacturing, among other growth areas. 

“When you consider the fact that not only did we make a complete recovery from the pandemic job loss, but we are now at a new record high of employment as of April numbers, I hope that that provides confidence for both business owners and individuals that are in the job market now or perhaps looking at opportunities to upskill themselves to be able to qualify for all of these high-quality jobs that we’re fighting to bring here to our market,” Townsend said. 

According to a presentation from the chamber, the Memphis region’s growth is on par with “major metropolitan areas of comparable size and composition.”

Those peer metro areas include Birmingham, Louisville and Oklahoma City. Of the four cities, Memphis has seen the highest growth percentage relative to March 2020 at 1.05%. 

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Growth of the construction industry has helped lead local economic growth, and leisure and hospitality has now rebounded to about 2% below full recovery, according to the report. 

Between March and April, the Memphis area saw seasonally-adjusted job growth of 0.35%. That’s slightly above the national average of 0.3%. April 2022 saw a 0.53% job growth over February 2020 numbers, just before the pandemic hit the Mid-South. 

Corinne S Kennedy covers economic development and healthcare for The Commercial Appeal. She can be reached via email at Corinne.Kennedy@CommercialAppeal.com