"We’re starting the new year with the lowest unemployment rate we’ve had in almost eight years," Georgia Labor Department Commissioner Mark Butler said Thursday.
With that, the state’s labor chief reported the jobless rate for Georgia in January was 5.4 percent, down from 5.5 percent in December and compared to 6.3 percent in January a year ago.
This marks the first time the state’s unemployment rate has been at 5.4 percent since February 2008. That was only a couple of months into a Great Recession fueled by a housing market bust and subsequent banking industry financial crisis. U.S. economists say the recession ended officially in the summer of 2009.
"Georgia employers continue to add jobs at a stronger pace than the national over-the-year job growth rate of 1.9 percent. We had job growth in nine of the 11 major job sectors we track," said Butler, pointing out there were 18,328 more Georgians with jobs in January than the month before and 92,649 more than in January 2015.
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Altogether, Georgia now has just over 4.3 million jobs, an increase of nearly 3 percent from January a year ago, which is 119,300 additional positions created over the year.
Metro area data released Thursday showed Columbus gaining 600 jobs since January a year ago, with the area’s job total at 121,100 in January. Every metro area in the state added jobs.
The labor department said the bulk of those new jobs year over year came in the sectors of professional and business services (32,800); trade, transportation and warehousing (25,700); and leisure and hospitality (21,900).
Other solid contributors were manufacturing (12,900); construction (9,800); education and health services (9,500); and financial activities (6,600). Sectors losing jobs were information services (2,500) and mining and logging (100).
Another key number tracked by labor experts is first-time unemployment claims — otherwise known as initial claims — which represent newly laid-off workers who are seeking jobless benefits. There were 54,220 such filings in January, up by just over 6,300 from December.
Manufacturers, particularly those making textile goods and transportation equipment, contributed to that increase in claims, although the department said those were "temporary" in nature with plants likely to ramp up hiring again as business increases this year.
There has been a decline, however, in new claims over the past year, with 57,194 filings in January 2015. That’s nearly 3,000 fewer filings.
Metro area data released Thursday showed Columbus gaining 600 jobs since January a year ago, with the area’s job total at 121,100 in January. Every metro area in the state added positions. The biggest percentage gainers were Athens, Gainesville, Savannah, Brunswick and Atlanta.
In terms of first-time unemployment claims, the Columbus metro area had 33 fewer in January than it did a year earlier. There were 1,533 local residents filing initial claims for assistance this January. Gainesville, Augusta, Dalton and Warner Robins were the only metro areas to not see dips in new claims.
The January labor report issued Thursday came a month later than normal, with labor number crunchers taking time to benchmark data for the state, something it does each year. That means Georgia metro area rates for January will be issued next week, followed the next week by the February figure for the state, with February metro area rates a week later.
The Columbus metro area unemployment rate in December was 6.4 percent, which compared to a 7 percent figure in December 2014.
Here are the January 2016 job totals for Georgia’s metro areas:
• Atlanta — 2,607,600
• Augusta — 227,200
• Savannah — 172,500
• Columbus — 121,100
• Macon — 102,300
• Athens — 92,300
• Gainesville — 84,400
• Warner Robins — 70,200
• Dalton — 67,500
• Albany — 61,500
• Valdosta — 54,900
• Brunswick — 41,800
• Rome — 40,200
• Hinesville — 19,600