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Columbus-area unemployment rate rises to 6.4 percent in December; now highest in Georgia along with Albany

BY TONY ADAMS

tadams@ledger-enquirer.com

The Georgia Department of Labor operates the Columbus Career Center at 700 Veterans Parkway. The state agency said Thursday that Georgia's unemployment rate remained the same at 5.5 percent from March to April.
The Georgia Department of Labor operates the Columbus Career Center at 700 Veterans Parkway. The state agency said Thursday that Georgia's unemployment rate remained the same at 5.5 percent from March to April. tadams@ledger-enquirer.com

The Columbus metropolitan area unemployment rate rose to 6.4 percent in December, the Georgia Department of Labor reported Thursday, joining Albany with the highest jobless figure in the state.

The December rate was up from 6.3 percent in November and is still better than the 7 percent the Columbus metro area had in December 2014.

The department said while the local area gained 200 jobs from November to December, the number of first-time claims for unemployment benefits — a measure of new layoffs — surged by 962 filings month over month to 2,014 in all. There were 1,052 first-time claims for assistance in November. Sectors experiencing most of the layoffs were accommodations, food service and manufacturing.

“Most of that was due to temporary layoffs in the manufacturing sector, so most of those individuals have already gone back to work” in January, said Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler.

Year over year, the Columbus metro area has gained 2,800 jobs, bringing its December total to 126,400, which is a 2.3 percent growth rate, higher than the U.S. performance as a whole, Butler said.

Professional and business services was the primary sector creating the 200 new positions. First-time jobless filings over the past year are lower as well, with 2,014 laid-off workers seeking help in December after being let go from their jobs. That’s down from 2,360 new filings in December 2014.

Among Georgia’s metro areas, Gainesville, northeast of Atlanta, has the lowest unemployment rate at 4.3 percent. Also under 5 percent are Athens at 4.8 percent and Atlanta at 4.9 percent.

Georgia’s December jobless figure, reported by the labor department last week, is 5.5 percent, which compares to 6.6 percent the year before.

Alabama’s December rate came in at 6.2 percent, up from 5.7 percent the year prior. The Auburn-Opelika, Ala., metro area in Lee County is now at 4.9 percent. While Russell County is considered part of the Columbus metro area, its individual jobless figure for December is 5.8 percent.

Here are the December 2015 unemployment rates for Georgia’s metro areas:

• Gainesville — 4.3 percent

• Athens — 4.8 percent

• Atlanta — 4.9 percent

• Savannah — 5 percent

• Valdosta — 5.3 percent

• Hinesville — 5.6 percent

• Warner Robins — 5.6 percent

• Augusta — 5.7 percent

• Brunswick — 5.7 percent

• Macon — 5.8 percent

• Rome — 5.9 percent

• Dalton — 6.1 percent

• Albany — 6.4 percent

• Columbus — 6.4 percent

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