UPDATE: Columbus metro area unemployment rate rises to 9 percent in January

Layoffs in the construction, manufacturing and retail sectors nudged the Columbus metro area unemployment rate higher in January, the Georgia Department of Labor reported today.

The preliminary rate came in at 9 percent, up from 8.8 percent in December, but still better than 9.9 percent in January 2011.

Statewide, the University of Georgia city of Athens posted the lowest rate at 7.1 percent, while the northwest Georgia carpet manufacturing community of Dalton was the highest at 12.7 percent.

Breaking down January jobless figures for individual counties in the surrounding area, the rate was 9.1 percent in Muscogee, 7.4 percent in Harris, 19.3 percent in Chattahoochee, 10.6 percent in Troup, 11.8 percent in Meriwether, 9.7 percent in Talbot, 8.5 percent in Marion, 12.6 percent in Taylor, 10.8 percent in Stewart and 7.7 percent in Webster.

Across the Chattahoochee River in Alabama, the rates were 9 percent in Russell, 6.9 percent in Lee, 10.5 percent in Chambers, 11.3 percent in Barbour, 11.1 percent in Macon, 14.4 percent in Bullock and 10 percent in Tallapoosa.

Georgia’s overall unemployment rate in January was 9.2 percent, its lowest in neary three years. Alabama’s slipped to 7.8 percent, with the state’s Department of Industrial Relations Director Tom Surtees saying first-time jobless benefit claims and the number of job orders in its database are nearing pre-recession levels.

“All of these stats point to a recovering economy,” he said in a statement.

The Georgia Department of Labor is scheduled to issue February jobless figures for the state next week, with metro area numbers the week after that.

Here are the January 2012 unemployment rates, from lowest to highest, for Georgia’s metropolitan areas:

Athens — 7.1 percent

Gainesville — 7.6 percent

Warner Robins — 7.6 percent

Savannah — 8.9 percent

Columbus — 9 percent

Valdosta — 9 percent

Augusta — 9.1 percent

Atlanta — 9.2 percent

Hinesville — 9.3 percent

Macon — 9.9 percent

Albany — 10.1 percent

Brunswick — 10.7 percent

Rome — 11.1 percent

Dalton — 12.7 percent