Georgia jobless rate drops to 6.4 percent in January

Georgia’s unemployment rate hasn’t been this low since July 2008, just a few months into the Great Recession.

That was the headline Thursday, with the Georgia Department of Labor reporting the jobless rate dipped slightly from a revised 6.6 percent in December to 6.4 percent in January.

The state’s rate in that summer month of 2008 was 6.3 percent. And a year ago, the rate was 7.3 percent.

“Our unemployment rate dropped for the seventh month in a row as nearly 17,000 more Georgians landed jobs in January,” Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said in a statement. “We also had fewer new claims for unemployment insurance benefits, which is a measure of new layoffs.”

He said year-over-year job growth was the best the state has experienced in two decades. The state added 131,900 jobs over that timeframe, all but a few thousand in the private sector. Georgia’s overall job count in January was 4,222,100, compared to 4,090,200 a year ago.

“This is the strongest January-to-January growth we’ve had in 20 years, going back to 1995 during the economic buildup to the Atlanta Summer Olympics,” the commissioner said. “The private sector accounted for 95 percent of the growth, and six of our job sectors grew at least three percent.”

The state did see a decline of 4,400 jobs from December to January, with the department attributing that to holiday staffers no longer being needed and being let go. Sectors that saw job losses from December to January were administrative and support services, retail, transportation, warehousing and construction. Gainers were manufacturing, wholesale trade, finance, insurance, health care and social assistance.

The department also said initial, or first-time, claims for unemployment assistance fell by more than 57,000 from December to January. New claims were down nearly 900 from January 2014.

Metro area data released Thursday showed Columbus adding 1,500 jobs year over year. Its job count in January was 122,100. Every metro area in the state experienced a net increase in job count over that 12-month period. Atlanta added more than 104,000 during that time, with Savannah growing by more than 8,000 jobs and August by more than 6,000.

In the category of first-time jobless assistance claims, the Columbus metro area had 175 fewer than a year ago. In January, 1,566 local residents filed for jobless benefits. Only Valdosta, Gainesville and Dalton saw increases in year-over-year claims.

The Georgia Department of Labor will release January unemployment rates for metro areas next week. That will be followed by the state’s February rate release on March 19, and metro area rates for February on March 26.

Here are the January 2015 job totals for Georgia’s metro areas:

Atlanta — 2,531,600

Augusta — 226,000

Savannah — 165,600

Columbus — 122,100

Macon — 101,200

Athens — 92,000

Gainesville — 81,200

Warner Robins — 69,600

Dalton — 67,400

Albany — 61,000

Valdosta — 54,600

Brunswick — 41,500

Rome — 40,000

Hinesville — 19,700