The last time the Georgia unemployment rate was this low, the Great Recession was just beginning amid a housing and banking crisis that would throw the U.S. economy into dramatic convulsions.
Nearly a decade later, the state’s rate is now down to 5.1 percent, that same figure from December 2007 before the job market would take a huge dive, with companies laying off masses of workers and putting future hiring on hold indefinitely. The recession officially ended in June 2009, but the recovery was painfully slow.
The March 2017 jobless rate of 5.1 percent, reported Thursday by the Georgia Department of Labor, is down from 5.3 percent in February. A year ago in March, the figure was at 5.5 percent.
“The rate dropped as we saw more than 19,000 people become employed and Georgia employers continued to create jobs,” said Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler. “While the monthly job growth was stronger than our three-year average for March, our over-the-year job growth of 131,000 is the best for this period since 2000.”
Georgia’s labor force now stands at 5,020,332. That number is made up of people who are actively employed and those out of work but seeking a job and a paycheck.
The labor department said there were 9,500 jobs created in March, bringing the total in the Peach State to 4,466,100. Year over year, 131,000 jobs have been added to the Georgia economy. There were 29,300 jobs created in professional and business services over the past year, 25,800 in leisure and hospitality, 18,900 in trade, transportation and warehousing, 17,300 in education and health services, 14,900 in government, 11,200 in construction, 9,700 in financial activities, 2,900 in information services, and 1,600 in manufacturing.
Initial, or first-time, claims for unemployment assistance — a sign of fresh layoffs — were up by 712 to 25,019 in March across Georgia. Most of that increase was because of temporary claims in the manfacturing sector, the department said. Year over year, new claims are down by 2,963 from 27,982.
Metro area data released Thursday show Columbus adding 600 jobs since March 2016, giving the area a current total of 120,900. Every metro area in Georgia saw increases in their job totals year over year.
In the category of first-time unemployment filings, Columbus only added three additional claims, giving it 798 new filings for assistance in March of this year. Valdosta also saw a slight increase in filings, with every other Georgia metro area experiencing declines over the past year.
The labor department urges that those searching for work take a look at its site, www.employgeorgia.com, which had just over 85,000 new job postings in March.
Here are the March 2017 job totals for Georgia’s metro areas:
▪ Atlanta — 2,726,000
▪ Augusta — 236,000
▪ Savannah — 180,000
▪ Columbus — 120,900
▪ Macon — 102,800
▪ Athens — 95,500
▪ Gainesville — 88,400
▪ Warner Robins — 73,600
▪ Dalton — 70,000
▪ Albany — 62,500
▪ Valdosta — 56,500
▪ Rome — 41,300
▪ Hinesville — 20,100