Georgia’s unemployment rate didn’t get any better in March, but the good news is it didn’t get any worse.
The rate remained at 6.3 percent from February to March, the Georgia Department of Labor reported Thursday. That compares to 7.3 percent in March a year ago.
State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler painted an optimistic picture on the unemployment front, pointing out the March jobless rate is at its lowest level since July 2008. That was roughly six months into the Great Recession as the state rate was starting to move higher into double digits with companies reducing staffing or freezing hiring amid the economic crisis.
“While the rate held steady in March, we have seen considerable improvement since it began a steady decline from November 2010, when it was 10.5 percent,” Butler said. “In fact, the jobless rate has either declined or remained steady every month since then.”
The latest figures were a double-edged sword, in essence. The department said the number of jobs across Georgia slipped by about 6,600 to 4,239,500 from February to March. But year over year, the state has added more than 127,000 jobs, with that growth across the board in virtually every sector — transportation, warehousing, leisure, hospitality, education, health services, professional/business services, manufacturing, government, financial activities and construction.
“Despite a small job loss in March, our over-the-year numbers still look very good,” Butler said. “Our employers added 127,100 jobs, which is the strongest March–to-March growth we’ve seen since 2000. That’s a growth rate of 3.1 percent, which is much stronger than the 2.3 percent national growth rate.”
The department also said the number of initial claims — or first-time filings for assistance by workers getting laid off — rose by 605 to 29,896 in March. About a third of those were “temporary layoffs,” mostly in manufacturing and construction. Year over year, new assistance claims were down by 918. There were 30,814 claims in March 2014.
Data released Thursday on the state’s metro areas showed Columbus adding 2,100 jobs from March 2014 to the current March, with the total job count at 123,800. Every metro area except Warner Robins saw job increases, with that city losing 200 over the past year.
In the category of first-time claims, there were 732 local people seeking assistance in March, up by only nine individuals from a year ago. The other metro areas to see increases in claims were Macon, Atlanta, Brunswick and Dalton.
The labor department will release March jobless rates for metro areas next week. The Columbus-area rate in February was 7.3 percent.
Here are the job totals for the metro areas in March:
Atlanta — 2,542,200
Augusta — 230,600
Savannah — 169,100
Columbus — 123,800
Macon — 101,400
Athens — 92,000
Gainesville — 82,200
Warner Robins — 69,900
Dalton — 68,400
Albany — 61,400
Valdosta — 55,300
Brunswick — 41,800
Rome — 40,100
Hinesville — 20,000