A slight increase in layoffs caused the state unemployment rate to tick higher to 8.6 percent in December, the Georgia Department of Labor reported today.
That’s up from 8.5 percent in November, but still significantly better than the 9.4 percent rate in December a year ago.
Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler, in a statement, said the rise in the jobless figure was caused primarily from a “modest” number of new layoffs, with a seasonal layoff in the education sector. Still, he noted, this is the best performance from November to December since 2007.
“The most important thing to remember from this report is that our unemployment rate is much lower, the pace of new layoffs slower, and the number of jobs significantly larger than a year ago,” the commissioner said. “Our economy has definitely improved in the past year.”
The fresh data show Georgia added 400 jobs in December, a less-than-robust increase, although there have been 70,200 jobs created across the state over the past 12 months.
Among metro areas, Columbus was one of four cities to see workforce declines from a year ago, with 1,400 fewer jobs locally pushing the total number of employed here down to 119,600. Dalton, Warner Robins and Augusta also saw declines, with the latter losing 2,100 jobs from December a year ago.
Overall, Georgia added jobs in several sectors over the last year. That included 26,000 positions in professional and business services, 17,300 in trade, transportation and warehousing, 12,700 in education and health care, 12,100 in leisure and hospitality, and 11,800 in manufacturing.
Any job creation in December was offset by an increase in Georgians filing for unemployment insurance benefits for the first time, with 50,861 laid-off workers doing so. In November, 47,351 people submitted initial claims. Manufacturing, construction, wholesale trade, and administrative-type positions took the brunt of the layoffs.
But over the last year, first-time jobless claims statewide are down 20 percent from 63,714 in December a year ago. In fact, every metro area except Hinesville in southeast Georgia experienced drops in initial filings. There were 678 fewer Columbus-area residents seeking assistance for the first time from December to December, with 1,343 local people doing so last month.
The unemployment rates for Georgia’s metro areas are scheduled to be released next week. In November, the Columbus figure was 8.3 percent.
The labor department’s Columbus office is currently inviting employers and agencies to participate in a large job fair that is scheduled for Feb. 14, on Valentine’s Day. The annual event, typically the largest job fair held in the city, will take place at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center.
Here are the December 2012 workforce totals for Georgia’s metro areas:
Atlanta — 2,371,500
Augusta — 206,400
Savannah — 155,600
Columbus — 119,600
Macon — 98,700
Athens — 85,800
Gainesville — 78,600
Dalton — 61,500
Albany — 59,600
Warner Robins — 59,000
Valdosta — 52,700
Brunswick — 40,600
Rome — 37,500
Hinesville — 19,800
* Source: Georgia Department of Labor