Columbus metro area unemployment rate edges lower in July

The Georgia Department of Labor operates the Columbus Career Center at 700 Veterans Parkway.
The Georgia Department of Labor operates the Columbus Career Center at 700 Veterans Parkway.

The Columbus metro area lost 500 jobs from June to July — much of it government-related and with schools on summer break — but still managed to cut slightly into its unemployment rate as the number of unemployed residents declined.

The rate decreased from 6.6 percent in June to 6.4 percent in July, the Georgia Department of Labor reported Thursday. That compares to 7.4 percent in July a year ago.

“Even though we did see initial claims increase in July — that means more individuals being laid off — we also saw some very encouraging things during that same time period,” said state Labor Commissioner Mark Butler. “One of those is we saw over 660 people actually return to the workforce. These are those individuals that are typically called discouraged workers who have not been looking for work. We’re seeing those return back because they seem to be encouraged now with what they’re seeing in the jobs picture.”

The kicker, however, was the increase in individuals gaining employment during July, Butler said, with 805 doing so for a total of 117,880 earning a paycheck locally. Butler also pointed to the plethora of data released by labor number crunchers and how it can conflict with other measurements.

“We also like to take a look at a contrasting number to that official jobs number and that is our data that we get from Employ Georgia, which is our job hosting system which we’ve just been using in the last year,” Butler said. “It actually pulls not only job postings with us, but from other reputable job boards.

“According to the data that we’re seeing there, when we talk about real-time job postings, during the month of July there were over 2,300 new job postings. That’s a very sharp contrast with what was reported as a 500 job loss versus what we’re seeing, (which is) the local businesses around the Columbus area have actually added about 2,300 jobs, or they’re trying to hire for 2,300 jobs.”

Year over year numbers released Thursday showed the Columbus area officially adding 1,200 jobs for a total of 120,600. The gains came in trade, transportation and warehousing, leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, education and health services, and state government.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits jumped locally by 309 from June for a total of 925 in July, the department said, with the bulk of those in manufacturing. A year ago, those first-time filings for benefits totaled 766.

Among Georgia’s metro areas, Gainesville had the lowest July jobless rate at 4.6 percent. Rome had the highest at 6.6 percent.

A week ago, the labor department reported Georgia’s overall unemployment rate in July was 5 percent, down from 5.1 percent in June and from 5.7 percent in July a year ago.

Georgia’s metro area rates

Here are the July 2016 unemployment rates for the state’s metro areas:

▪ Gainesville — 4.6 percent

▪ Savannah — 5 percent

▪ Atlanta — 5.1 percent

▪ Athens — 5.2 percent

▪ Valdosta — 5.4 percent

▪ Warner Robins — 5.6 percent

▪ Brunswick — 5.7 percent

▪ Macon — 5.7 percent

▪ Hinesville — 5.8 percent

▪ Augusta — 6.1 percent

▪ Albany — 6.3 percent

▪ Dalton — 6.3 percent

▪ Columbus — 6.4 percent

▪ Rome — 6.6 percent