Georgia jobless rate slips to 10.2 percent in February as Columbus work force grows

Georgia’s unemployment rate improved slightly in February, slipping to 10.2 percent from a revised 10.3 percent in January.

Other data released today by the Georgia Department of Labor showed the Columbus metro area work force surging over the past year, adding 1,000 jobs since February 2010 for a current total of 116,700. The metro areas of Gainesville, Macon and Athens all were strong work-force gainers, with Rome, Hinesville, Augusta and Atlanta seeing declines.

Columbus also experienced 80 fewer initial jobless filings year over year, with 1,151 residents submitting benefit claims in February. All metro areas in Georgia, with the exception of Gainesville and Dalton, had fewer initial jobless claims. Statewide, there were more than 55,000 such filings in February, down 38 percent from January.

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said the fact that the state added just over 25,000 payroll jobs last month — rather than losing positions — gave him “reason for cautious optimism.” The state now has a total work force of 3,795,400.

“I’m encouraged that we continue to see a reduction in the number of new layoffs,” he said. “However, the growing number of long-term unemployed is troubling.”

Those who have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer are classified as long-term unemployed by the state and federal governments. There were 263,200 Georgians in that category last month, 500 more than in January but a whopping 72,400 more than in February a year ago.

As for the unemployment rate, Georgia has the dubious distinction of having a higher figure than that of the nation for 41 straight months. The U.S. rate is now 8.9 percent. Georgia’s rate in February of last year was 10.3 percent.