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Georgia jobless rate falls to pre-Great Recession level of 4.9 percent

The Georgia Department of Labor operates the Columbus Career Center at 700 Veterans Parkway. The state agency said Thursday that Georgia's unemployment rate dipped from 5 percent in July to 4.9 percent in August.--
The Georgia Department of Labor operates the Columbus Career Center at 700 Veterans Parkway. The state agency said Thursday that Georgia's unemployment rate dipped from 5 percent in July to 4.9 percent in August.-- Columbus

How low will Georgia’s unemployment rate go? Only time — and future economic events — will determine that.

But it has been nearly nine years since it was at the 4.9 percent mark reported Thursday by the Georgia Department of Labor. For those who don’t track the stats, that was in October 2007, just as the proverbial “housing market crash” was hitting the fan, spewing a financial crisis into the banking sector and spinning the United States into a Great Recession.

The August rate of 4.9 percent for the Peach State was just lower than 5 percent in July and compares to 5.6 percent in August a year ago.

“This is the first time in nine years that Georgia’s unemployment rate has been as low as the national rate,” said Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler. “When we look back to that time, we see that our job market has made significant improvements, not only as far as the rate is concerned, but we also have more jobs and more people employed than ever before.”

The department noted that Georgia’s jobless rate in July 2007 was 4.6 percent, which was on par with the 4.7 percent rate of the United States as a whole. Economists say the Great Recession started in December 2007 and ended in June 2009.

Meanwhile, metro area data released Thursday show Columbus picking up 800 jobs over the past year, with its August total at 122,400. However, it among a handful of cities around Georgia to see less than 1,000 jobs added over that time. Those included Rome, Hinesville, Dalton and Warner Robins.

On the flip side, Atlanta added 71,000 jobs from August 2015 to August 2016, with 6,900 generated in Savannah, 3,300 in Athens, 3,100 in Augusta, 2,800 in Gainesville, 2,000 in Macon, 1,100 in Brunswick and Albany, and 1,000 in Valdosta.

The labor department will release August unemployment rates for the state’s metro areas next Thursday.

Year over year, Georgia overall added 104,000 jobs, giving the state a total of 4,387,200 positions in August. Sectors gaining jobs include 30,300 in trade, transportation and warehousing, 25,800 in professional and business services, 22,900 in leisure and hospitality, 12,300 in education and health services, 9,500 in construction, 5,200 in manufacturing, and 4,400 in financial activities. Information services was the only loser, bleeding 5,000 jobs.

A major positive from the August data was the number of Georgians employed, with the total at 4,651,399 — an all-time high. There also are now 241,737 people across the state officially classified as unemployed. That’s the lowest mark since October 2007, the department said.

Another barometer — first-time claims for unemployment assistance after being laid off — were up by about 900 year over year, with a total of 27,238 Georgians seeking jobless benefits in August.

The Columbus area saw its first-time claim filings rise by 84 from a year ago to 819. Every metro area in Georgia experienced an increase, with the exception of Albany, Savannah and Warner Robins.

The labor department urges those looking for jobs to visit its website, www.employgeorgia.com, to see what’s available. There were just under 63,000 positions listed on the site in August, it said.

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