Columbus metro area jobless rate jumps to 8 percent in May

The Columbus metro area rate jumped from 7.2 percent in April to 8 percent in May, the Georgia Department of Labor reported Thursday.

That’s slightly better than the 8.2 percent rate in May a year ago and is a full percent higher than the 7.2 percent figure posted by Georgia as a whole last month.

But the increase isn’t a surprise, considering the wave of graduations this time of year, said Sam Hall, the labor department’s communications chief.

“While that’s a fairly large increase in the rate percentage-wise, the reason behind it is purely seasonal in nature,” he said. “There were a lot of college students who entered the labor force looking for full-time work as they are trying to kick off their careers. Of course, a lot of those are recent graduates from Columbus State University.

“Also, you had a lot of students — college and high school — entering the labor force seeking part-time work. So that combination of all of those people beginning to look for work is what pushed the rate up.”

That increase in job seekers was countered a bit by an increase of 200 jobs in the Columbus metro area from April to May, raising the local workforce number to 122,600, the department said. Leisure and hospitality hires led the way there. Year over year, the local metro area has added 700 jobs, with professional and business services also chipping in new positions.

In the category of new filings for unemployment claims, there were 899 individuals seeking assistance for the first time in May after losing their jobs. That’s up by 117 filings in April, an increase of 15 percent.

Data released Thursday also show the Columbus metro area, in March, had a total labor force of 130,807. Of those, 10,450 people were officially classified as unemployed. The metro area includes the Georgia counties of Muscogee, Chattahoochee, Harris and Marion, as well as Russell County in Alabama.

Among all of Georgia’s metro areas, Athens had the lowest unemployment rate in May at 5.7 percent, while Dalton was the highest at 8.8 percent.

Here are the Georgia metro area jobless rates for May:

Athens — 5.7 percent

Gainesville — 6.1 percent

Augusta — 7 percent

Savannah — 7 percent

Warner Robins — 7 percent

Atlanta — 7.3 percent

Valdosta — 7.6 percent

Macon — 7.9 percent

Rome — 7.9 percent

Columbus — 8 percent

Albany — 8.4 percent

Hinesville — 8.4 percent

Brunswick — 8.5 percent

Dalton — 8.8 percent