A slight surge in new jobs in December helped nudge the state’s unemployment rate down to 7.4 percent, the Georgia Department of Labor reported Thursday.
That compares to a revised rate of 7.6 percent in November and 8.7 percent in December a year ago.
“The rate dropped primarily because 4,020 more Georgians were employed in December, mostly due to seasonal hiring in retail trade, transportation and warehousing,” State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said in a statement. “I’m particularly pleased that we had some 90,000 more jobs this December than last, which is the best December job growth in eight years.”
Sectors adding positions over the past year included professional and business services (25,100), trade and transportation (22,100), leisure and hospitality (18,500), education and health services (15,300) and construction (9,900).
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The department noted that there are now 5,100 fewer government jobs in Georgia than this time a year ago.
The number of laid-off workers filing unemployment claims for the first time in Georgia shot up sharply from November (33,781) to December (65,880).
At the same time, the overall number of Georgia workers officially classified as unemployed dipped by 12,185 to just under 350,000. The department said that’s the lowest jobless total since October 2008.
Metro area data released Thursday showed Columbus adding 600 jobs from December to December, with the workforce now at 121,100. Metro areas that experienced overall workforce declines over the past year were Augusta (200), Dalton (300), Hinesvilles (100), Warner Robins (400) and Brunswick (700).
The Atlanta metro area added 58,900 jobs, while Athens picked up 1,700, Macon gained 1,600 and Gainesville grew by 1,100.
Meanwhile, first-time unemployment benefit filings in the Columbus area jumped from 1,348 in December a year ago to 2,379 last month. The only metro areas to not see a spike in initial claims were Brunswick, Hinesville and Valdosta.
The labor department will release December unemployment rates for Georgia’s metro areas next Thursday. The Columbus-area rate in November was 7.6 percent.