Georgia’s unemployment rate jumped to its highest level ever in May, registering 9.7 percent.
That’s up from a revised 9.2 percent jobless rate in April, the Georgia Department of Labor reported Thursday.
Georgia Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond called the surging unemployment rate a “stark reminder that the road to economic recovery will be long and difficult.”
The Columbus metro area unemployment rate was 8.3 percent in April. The number for May should be released next week.
In a report issued earlier this month, the department said there were nearly 1,200 first-time jobless benefit claims filed in May by Columbus residents, up from 758 initial claims in May a year ago, a 57.5 percent increase.
Georgia’s unemployment rate a year ago was 5.9 percent. But, as the economy has unraveled, that number has ratcheted higher, with some experts projecting it will top 10 percent before trending downward.
The labor department said that more workers re-entered the labor force in May, pushing the state rate higher. There were nearly 464,000 Georgians looking for work in the state last month, it said, an increase of 62 percent from a year ago.
More than 157,000 of those without a job are receiving jobless benefits, the department said, with 90,000 receiving federal extended benefits.
Some Georgians are eligible for up to 20 weeks of extended state benefits if they have exhausted regular state aid and federal emergency unemployment compensation benefits.
Columbus residents should contact the department’s local career center, 700 Veterans Parkway, for assistance, or call 706-649-7423.