News briefs from around Tennessee
Posted: Friday, April 17, 2009 8:01 pm
March unemployment rate reaches 9.6 percent
NASHVILLE (AP) — The state’s unemployment rate jumped to 9.6 percent in February, and the number of unemployed people has reached a record high, according to labor officials.
The March rate a year ago was 5.7 percent. The national unemployment rate for March was 8.5 percent, up from the February rate of 8.1 percent. The state’s revised February rate was 9.0 percent.
“The unemployment rate continues on an upward trend and economists predict Tennessee will face difficult months ahead,” said Tennessee Labor Commissioner James Neeley in a statement issued Thursday.
“For the first time in several months, however, we are seeing increases in retail trade and leisure and hospitality employment, which are encouraging signs.”
Despite those increases, Bill Fox, a state economist and director of the University of Tennessee Center for Economic Research, said he expects the state unemployment rate to reach above 10 percent by the end of this year.
The Tennessee Business and Economic Outlook predicts the state’s unemployment rate will reach 9.8 percent in early 2010.
W. Tenn. man convicted
in murder-for-hire case
MEMPHIS (AP) — A Tipton County man has been convicted of hiring a hit man to kill his mother 10 years ago.
Billy Harold Johnson, 50, of Burlison, was convicted Wednesday by a federal jury after a four-week trial.
Johnson was indicted in 2007 for hiring Danny Winberry for $50,000 to murder Martha Johnson, who was bludgeoned to death with an antique iron at her home in 1999.
Authorities have said Billy Johnson collected about $340,000 after his mother’s death from life insurance and the sale of a family farm. He will be sentenced later and faces life in prison.
Winberry pleaded guilty earlier and is to be sentenced in May.
Johnson also was convicted of perjury.
leads to arrest
CHATTANOOGA (AP) — A sorority leader at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga has been arrested on assault charges from a hazing complaint.
Police said 22-year-old Seirra Smith of Memphis was being booked Thursday.
Police Sgt. Jerri Weary said Smith is parliamentarian of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority chapter.
UTC student Jasmine Johnson said in a police complaint that she had to be treated for a concussion after being punched, kicked, beaten with a paddle and sprayed in the face with vinegar by five sorority members.
Police said no further charges are expected.
Smith wasn’t available for comment because she is in custody. Police said she didn’t yet have a lawyer.
Published in The Messenger 4.17.09