Georgia jobless rate slips to 9.9 percent, although state’s work force is down

Georgia’s unemployment rate dipped slightly in July, even with the number of jobs in the state falling, the Georgia Department of Labor reported today.

The state’s 9.9 percent jobless rate last month compares to a 10 percent rate in June. And it also marks the 34th straight month that Georgia’s rate has topped the U.S. figure, which is now at 9.5 percent.

Georgia Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond lamented the situation, which he said appears to be worsening.

“Although the unemployment rate remained virtually unchanged,” he said in a statement, “a growing number of discouraged workers dropped out of the work force. For the second consecutive month, the number of jobs in our state declined, new layoffs increased, and long-term unemployment continued to rise.”

The tiny decrease in the unemployment rate was due to the state’s labor force dwindling by about 21,000 jobs in July, the labor department said. That occurred primarily because those without jobs long-term — 27 weeks or longer — have become discouraged and exited the job market altogether. About 230,000 Georgians are now in that category, it said.

There is good news with unemployment claims, however. While 68,000 laid-off staffers filed for benefits for the first time in July — a 5 percent jump from June — there were 27.6 percent fewer claims from July of 2009, when nearly 94,000 initial claims were filed.

Columbus, meanwhile, is awaiting its July unemployment numbers, which should be released next week. The metro area’s jobless rate in June was 9.7 percent, a leap from 9.2 percent the month prior.

There were some nuggets of data for the city in Thursday’s labor report. First-time unemployment claim filings dropped 33.5 percent to 1,193 from July 2009, the biggest percentage improvement of all metro areas in the state.

On the flip side, the Columbus work force dropped by 400 jobs over the last year to 116,100, which is a decline of 0.3 percent. Gainesville, Brunswick, Dalton, Atlanta and Valdosta also experienced dips in their work force totals, while Athens, Savannah, Albany, Warner Robins, Rome and Augusta saw increases. Hinesville and Macon were flat.