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Georgia jobless rate slips to 9 percent in March; half of metro areas add jobs, including Columbus

Georgia’s unemployment rate continued to slip lower in March, with the state as a whole adding jobs and layoffs declining.

The rate last month was 9 percent, down from a revised rate of 9.1 percent in February, making it the lowest level in three years, the Georgia Department of Labor reported today. The rate in March of last year was 9.8 percent.

Half of the state’s metro areas gained jobs over the past year, the department said, with Columbus among them. The area’s work force rose by 1,800 jobs, from 117,400 in March 2011 to 119,200 last month.

“Georgia’s unemployment rate continues to trend downward,” Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said in a statement. “It’s important to recognize that it’s done so as the number of people in the labor force steadily increased. This indicates a growing optimism among unemployed workers that they will be able to land a job.”

Georgia has added 35,600 jobs in the last 12 months, the department said. Aside from Columbus, the other metro areas seeing their work-force totals climb were Gainesville, Valdosta, Athens, Macon, Atlanta and Warner Robins. Brunswick was static, while Dalton, Augusta, Albany, Rome, Hinesville and Savannah lost positions.

Statewide, the number of people filing first-time claims for jobless benefits fell 15 percent year over year, with 42,676 seeking assistance last month compared to more than 50,000 in March 2011. Initial claims were also down 8 percent month to month, from February to March.

All metro areas saw fewer first-time claims, with Columbus having 95 less. The total number of residents filing last month was 1,075.

Unemployment rates for Georgia’s metro areas will be released next week. The Columbus rate in February was 8.9 percent.

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