Georgia unemployment rate unchanged at 8.9 percent in May; Columbus adds jobs

Georgia’s unemployment rate didn’t get better in May, but it also didn’t get any worse.

The state’s rate remained the same from April at 8.9 percent, the Georgia Department of Labor reported today. A year ago, it was 9.8 percent. It marked the first time in nearly a year that the jobless rate did not dip.

Still, Labor Commissioner Mark Butler noted that’s not necessarily a bad thing, pointing to several key barometers that portend progress was still made last month.

“Although the unemployment rate held steady, we now have the fewest jobless workers receiving unemployment insurance benefits since the start of the recession in 2007, and the numbers of new layoffs and long-term unemployed are down,” Butler said in a statement. “And more good news is that our job growth continues. We added 16,400 new jobs in May, and we have 34,000 more jobs than in May a year ago. Fortunately, the growth is in some of our key industries.”

Columbus was among half of the state’s 14 metropolitan areas to experience job growth over the past year, with the city adding 2,200 positions for a work force total of 121,600. Gainesville, Athens, Macon, Valdosta, Atlanta and Brunswick also saw gains. Atlanta alone added nearly 28,000 jobs.

Sectors seeing staffing growth from April to May included retail, transportation, warehousing, leisure and hospitality, manufacturing, education, health care and construction, the department said. The public or government sector, primarily educational services, lost about 1,300 jobs.

Statewide, the department said, there were roughly 73,600 people receiving unemployment benefits in May, while the number of long-term unemployed — those not working for 27 weeks or longer — was at 236,900, down by 3,600 from April.

The number of Georgians filing for jobless assistance for the first time in May was down by 729 to just under 47,000 last month. Among metro areas, Columbus was one of only three cities to post an increase in initial filings for benefits, with 122 more people doing so last month — 1,021 in all — compared to May 2011. Albany and Hinesville were the other two to experience slight increases in first-time filings.

The labor department is scheduled to release May unemployment rates for the state’s metro areas next week. The Columbus figure in April was 8.4 percent.

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