(WMC-TV) - Memphis posted the highest jobless rates for large metropolitan areas of one million or more in May with 9.5 percent, according to a report released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Tuesday.
"We have a high rate of poverty in our city, and we have challenges like this that will be going for the next decade or two," said councilman Myron Lowery.
And it likely means the Memphis area may continue with high unemployment rates.
"We are increasing the number of students who want to go to college. That has been a major effort of Mayor Wharton, the chamber of commerce business, and industry in this city," said Lowery.
The 2012 average left the Memphis area with 10.2 percent unemployment. At that time, Memphis ranked 39 out of 50 cities.
Lowery says there is progress pointing to Electrolux and Mitsubishi bringing a lot of jobs to the area.
But he said change will not come quickly.
"Poverty does not change overnight. It's a long term goal," said Lowery.
Faith-based Advance Memphis said multiple factors contribute to creating joblessness in the area. The organization works in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city.
The South Memphis business helps place people who are under-employed or have no job get into higher paying positions.
The director of education at Advance Memphis, Michael Rhodes, said they see people from all walks of life.
"She works the night shift at FedEx, then comes here during the day for GED classes," said Rhodes describing a student.
The organization provides plenty of resources from GED classes to a program called Jobs for Life.
Rhodes said the jobless numbers result from a lack of skills and education, which is part of what they teach.
"It's a total misconception that people ... that everyone who wants to work can work," said Rhodes.
Another problem is a system where crime pays better than what is perceived to be a menial job.
Juanita Johnson said that can results from the fear of losing government help.
"The thought of not having food stamps or child assistance paid for by the state is frightening, so there's a fear that goes with it," said Johnson.
Advance Memphis wants to change that by using examples of those who have gone from a life of crime to well-paying jobs.
One of the great examples they used was a man who had felonies in his background and now makes over $62,000 a year.
If you're interested in what they have to offer, give them a call at 901-543-8525.
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