Georgia unemployment rate hits 16-year high

Georgia’s unemployment rate surged to 7 percent in October — a 16-year high — the Georgia Department of Labor reported Thursday.

The jobless rate rose from 6.4 percent in September, the department said. A year ago in October, the rate registered 4.5 percent.

“Georgia’s economy is being slammed by a deteriorating job market,” State Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond said in a statement. “In each of the last three months, the state has experienced increasing job losses and 70-plus percent over-the-year increases in the number of workers filing initial unemployment insurance claims.”

The state’s unemployment rate has not been this high since April 1992, the department said. It was also 7 percent at the time.

From a historical perspective, President George H. Bush was still in office and the U.S. military had wrapped up the first Gulf War, known as “Operation Desert Storm,” little more than a year earlier.

This time, there are 343,000 Georgians in the unemployment ranks, the Labor Department said. There also are 61,300 fewer payroll jobs in the state than in October 2007, a 1.5 percent decline.

That makes it the largest October to October job decrease in Georgia history, the department said. Job losses are coming in every sector, it said, although manufacturing, construction, retail and private employment agencies are being hurt the most.

Georgia’s 7 percent rate also is higher than the 6.5 percent U.S. rate.

The Columbus rate in September was 6.9 percent, up from 5.2 percent in August. The Labor Department will release its October data on the city next week.