A decline in jobs and a surge in layoffs added up to a 7.4 percent unemployment rate for the Columbus metro area in June, giving the city one of the highest rates in the state.
The June figure, reported Thursday by the Georgia Department of Labor, was up from 7 percent in May and compares to 8.4 percent a year ago. The current rate also is sharply higher than that of Georgia, which was 6.1 percent in June. That’s the same rate for Alabama in June.
The Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce has been spending a lot of time with the city’s existing companies, trying to determine what challenges they face when it comes to expanding and hiring more workers, said Bill Murphy, the chamber’s executive vice president of economic development.
“We’re actively talking with a number of companies, both with major expansion opportunities and recruitment potential. About 80 percent of our job growth comes from our existing companies,” he said at Thursday morning’s chamber Eye Opener Breakfast.
Murphy pointed out the Columbus metro area jobless rate rose in May largely because of 1,200 individuals, sensing the job market was improving, jumped back into the workforce. People re-entering the local labor market could be the case as well in June, he said.
Certainly, June is the time that schools take a summer break, idling workers who likely will seek part-time positions to keep income flowing into their households. Those school employees will be wrapping up those breaks and heading back to work in early August, with that being reflected in future labor reports.
The labor department on Thursday said the number of jobs in the Columbus area fell by 400 in June to a total of 124,600. Losing sectors included state government, education and health services. Year over year, however, the metro area has generated about 1,900 positions.
In the category of first-time claims for unemployment benefits — a sign of fresh layoffs — there were 817 local residents seeking assistance from the state in June, which was 148 filings higher than in May. There were 878 first-time claims in June a year ago.
Among Georgia’s metro areas, Gainesville had the lowest June unemployment rate in the state at 5.3 percent. Albany had the highest at 7.6 percent.Overall, Murphy said he and others in the chamber are optimistic moving forward on the city’s job front.
“We’re confident that we’re going to see an upswing in employment as we continue to work with our existing companies and go after those new companies that are looking across the Southeast for new expansion opportunities,” he said.
Here are the June 2015 unemployment rates for Georgia’s metro areas:
Gainesville — 5.3 percent
Atlanta — 6 percent
Savannah — 6.1 percent
Athens — 6.3 percent
Brunswick — 6.6 percent
Hinesville — 6.6 percent
Valdosta — 6.7 percent
Dalton — 6.8 percent
Augusta — 6.9 percent
Macon — 6.9 percent
Rome — 7.1 percent
Columbus — 7.4 percent
Albany — 7.6 percent