More Georgians jumping back into the job market helped nudge the state’s unemployment rate higher to 6.3 percent in May, the Georgia Department of Labor reported Thursday.
The rate was up from 6.2 percent in April, the department said, with 7,379 people entering the labor force in May, searching for work and being counted among the unemployed. The state’s labor force stands at 4,774,912.
“Our labor force expanded for the 18th month in a row, and that’s probably the biggest factor in driving up the rate,” Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said in a statement. “Also, initial unemployment claims were up, but by less than one percent.”
The state’s jobless rate in May of last year was 7.3 percent.
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Butler appeared to downplay the slight rise in the unemployment rate last month, saying private sector employers are steadily adding jobs for those needing and wanting them. There were 11,700 jobs created in May by private employers. But that was countered by the loss of 7,800 jobs by government entities. That left the state with 4,252,800 jobs at the end of May.
Sectors that added jobs in May were professional/business services (11,200), leisure/hospitality (1,700), construction (1,300) and transportation/warehousing (1,200).
“Over the year, we’re still showing strong job growth,” Butler said. “We had 114,900 more jobs than we did a year ago. And the pace of job growth in Georgia at 2.8 percent is better than the national average at 2.2 percent. Right now, we’re showing a stronger pace of growth than we did last year, and 2014 was a very good year.”
Since May a year ago, sectors that have added jobs include trade/transportation/warehousing (30,800), professional/business services (27,700), leisure/hospitality (26,300), education/health services (19,300), manufacturing (6,200), financial services (4,600), construction (3,600) and information services (1,300). Again, government is a loser with 3,700 fewer positions.
The department also reported that just under 28,000 individuals sought assistance statewide after being laid off from their jobs in May. That’s up roughly 200 from April. Those unemployment claim filings came in health care and social assistance, accommodations (hotel sector) and food services.
Year over year, however, first-time filings for jobless benefits are down nearly 16 percent, from nearly 33,200 a year ago. Sectors showing fewer such filings over the past 12 months include accommodations, food services, manufacturing, construction, retail, transportation and warehousing.
Metro area data released Thursday show Columbus gaining 2,200 jobs from May a year ago, giving the area a total of 125,400 jobs. The Columbus metro area includes Muscogee, Harris, Chattahoochee and Marion counties in Georgia, as well as Russell County in Alabama. The only metro areas to lose jobs over the past year were Albany and Warner Robins.
In the category of first-time unemployment claim filings, there were 669 Columbus-area residents seeking assistance in May, down from 899 in the same month of 2014. Macon and Warner Robins were the only metro areas to experience an increase in such filings.
The Georgia Department of Labor will release May jobless rates for metro areas next week. The Columbus-area rate in April was 6.7 percent.
METRO AREA JOB TOTALS
Here are the May 2015 job totals for Georgia’s metro areas:
Atlanta — 2,583,200
Augusta — 230,900
Savannah — 169,700
Columbus — 125,400
Macon — 102,000
Athens — 92,500
Gainesville — 83,000
Warner Robins — 69,800
Dalton — 68,800
Albany — 61,000
Valdosta — 54,900
Brunswick — 42,700
Rome — 40,200
Hinesville — 20,100