Columbus jobless rate climbs to 7.6 percent in January

January was a double-edged sword on the unemployment front for the Columbus metro area.

The Georgia Department of Labor reported Thursday that the area's jobless rate jumped from 7 percent in December to 7.6 percent in January, primarily due to seasonal layoffs of workers hired to work in retail stores, restaurants and hotels during the holidays.

That added up to a net loss of 1,500 jobs month over month, with the metro area's total count sliding from 123,600 to 122,100.

The department said many of the jobs that disappeared were temporary and part-time, with Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler saying that is “not unusual” as employers downsize for the reduced post-holiday demand from consumers.

On the other hand, Butler said the “really good news” is that the Columbus metro area’s unemployment rate is better than the 8.2 percent it registered in January a year ago. At that time, the local job total was 120,600.

The area also saw the number of initial, or first-time, claims filed for unemployment assistance with the state drop from 2,360 in December to 1,566 in January, down nearly 800 positions. There were fewer claims in manufacturing, accommodations and food service, the department said. Year over year, benefit filings were down by 175.

In specific sectors, the Columbus area's decline in jobs from December to January came in retail, leisure, hospitality and state government. Over the past year, however, it has had gains in education, health services, retail, leisure, hospitality, finance and insurance.

Among metro areas, Gainesville posted the lowest January unemployment rate at 5. 2 percent, while the highest was in Dalton at 8 percent. The latter has languished at the bottom of the state's jobless charts through the Great Recession.

The department last week reported that Georgia's rate in January was 6.4 percent, down from 6.6 percent in December and from 7.3 percent in January a year ago.

The labor department will release the February rate for the state next week, followed by those of the metro areas the following week.

Here are the January 2015 unemployment rates for Georgia's metro areas:

Gainesville — 5.2 percent

Athens — 5.7 percent

Atlanta — 6.2 percent

Savannah — 6.4 percent

Valdosta — 6.6 percent

Warner Robins — 6.8 percent

Augusta — 6.9 percent

Brunswick — 7 percent

Macon — 7 percent

Hinesville — 7.1 percent

Rome — 7.1 percent

Albany — 7.6 percent

Columbus — 7.6 percent

Dalton — 8 percent