Georgia unemployment rate slips to 8.9 percent; Columbus among half of metro areas to gain jobs over past year

Georgia’s unemployment rate slipped to 8.9 percent in April, as half of the state’s metropolitan areas — including Columbus — continued to add jobs over the past year.

The state’s rate in March was 9 percent, while in April a year ago it was just under double digits at 9.8 percent. The rate hasn’t been that low since February 2009.

“We now have the lowest unemployment rate, the fewest unemployed workers, and the most jobs in Georgia in more than three years,” Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said in a statement today. “Our job market continues to improve at a modest and steady rate.”

Data released by the department show Columbus added 1,400 jobs over the last 12 months, with the metro area’s work force reaching 120,300. Gainesville, Athens, Valdosta, Macon, Atlanta and Warner Robins also experienced gains over the past year, while the cities of Dalton, Augusta, Albany, Rome, Hinesville, Savannah and Brunswick lost workers.

Columbus, however, did have the dubious distinction of being the only metro area to see its first-time unemployment claim filings increase over the past year. In April, 1,053 residents filed initial claims for benefits, up by 151 from April 2011.

The labor department also said there were 423,495 Georgians officially classified as unemployed last month, with nearly 57 percent of those out of work long-term, which means they’ve been off the job for longer than 26 weeks.

There also were nearly 32,000 jobs created in April, the department said, again the most significant momentum since early 2009. The total jobs statewide was 3,926,000.

Most of the new jobs were in the sectors of trade and transportation, leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, construction, education and health care. It noted that state and local governments sliced 3,300 jobs collectively from their payrolls.

The April unemployment rate for Columbus and Georgia’s other metro areas will be released next week. The city’s rate in March was 8.6 percent.

Related stories from Columbus Ledger-Enquirer