Georgia unemployment rate dips to 5.5 percent in December


Georgia’s unemployment rate ticked slightly lower, from 5.6 percent in November to 5.5 percent in December.

The current rate, which compares to 6.6 percent in December a year ago, came with the state adding jobs month over month, although cuts in the government sector pinched the progress somewhat, the Georgia Department of Labor reported Thursday.

“The rate dropped to its lowest level in nearly seven years as our employers continued to create jobs and hire more people,” state Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said in a statement. “While we saw a net increase of 3,300 jobs in December, our private sector employers actually added 6,000 jobs. But cuts, primarily in government, offset some of that gain.”

Year over year, Georgia has added 91,100 jobs since December 2014, the department said, to give it a current statewide total of 4,317,600 positions. Sectors gaining jobs over the past 12 months include professional/business services (27,300), trade, transportation and warehousing (17,500), leisure and hospitality (13,000), education and health services (12,900), construction (8,100), manufacturing (6,800), government (5,800) and financial activities (2,200).

Georgia did see a sharp increase in the number of workers submitting claims for unemployment assistance from November to December, with 47,909 individuals filing for benefits for the first time. An indication of fresh layoffs, that’s an additional 14,136 new claims month to month, an increase of nearly 42 percent.

Year over year, however, the number of first-time, or initial, claims are down by 9,601. There were 57,510 filings in December 2014.

Metro area data released Thursday show Columbus gaining 2,800 jobs over the past year, giving the local area a total job count of 126,400. Metro areas losing jobs over the year include Macon, Hinesville, Warner Robins, Albany and Valdosta.

In the category of first-time jobless assistance claims, there were 2,014 people seeking benefits in Columbus in December, down by 346 from 2,360 filings in December 2014. Only Dalton and Augusta failed to see year-over-year declines in such claims.

The labor department will release metro area unemployment rates for December next week. The Columbus metro area’s figure in November was 6.3 percent.

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

• Atlanta — 2,644,500

• Augusta — 232,600

• Savannah — 175,200

• Columbus — 126,400

• Macon — 102,900

• Athens — 95,200

• Gainesville — 83,300

• Warner Robins — 69,900

• Dalton — 68,500

• Albany — 60,800

• Valdosta — 54,600

• Brunswick — 41,900

• Rome — 41,100

• Hinesville — 19,700