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Tennessee’s loss of 77,000 manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2003 marks a reversal from the above-average job growth in employment that Tennessee recorded for most of the past half century, a University of Tennessee economist says.

Bill Fox, professor and research director for the UT Center for Business and Economic Research, says many of the job losses have been in textile and apparel which are low paying industries that employ unskilled workers.

According to recently released Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development figures, the state finished the three-year period with a net loss of 67,000 jobs in all sectors. Growth in other areas helped offset the manufacturing job loss.

“The jobs we are creating are higher paid but they also require higher skills so it is a challenge for manufacturing employees to find a job replacement,” Fox said.

Tennessee has seen steady decline in nondurable goods manufacturing jobs including textiles, apparel, leather goods and chemicals.

However, Tennessee has seen growth in the fast-food, healthcare, business, educational, professional and other service sectors.

In 2003, manufacturing jobs paid an average of $40,136, up from $36,144 in 2000. All job classifications in Tennessee averaged $33,568 in 2003, which was up from $30,556 in 2003.

Employment figures for June 2004 show some growth in overall Tennessee jobs. While manufacturing jobs dropped by 600 in the past year, statewide employment grew by 46,400 jobs.