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Jobless rate on the rise

By Justin Reedy

Unemployment continues to rise both in Clayton County and the rest of the United States as economic experts and local residents say the economy still hasn't turned the corner towards recovery.

There were nearly 8,400 Clayton County residents who were unemployed in May, an increase of about 750 workers from April, according to statistics released recently by the Georgia Department of Labor.

The United States Department of Labor announced Thursday that the nationwide unemployment rate had climbed to 6.4 percent in June, its highest level in more than nine years. June unemployment data for Clayton County and the rest of Georgia will be released later this month.

About 30,000 jobs were cut last month by American businesses, and the three-tenths of a percent increase in the rate is the highest one-month jump since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Businesses in Clayton County have cut more than 1,300 jobs since March in mass layoffs, with more than 1,100 caused by the shutdown of the J.C. Penney catalog distribution center in Forest Park.

Despite news that the stock market had started to rise this week and other signs the recession may be waning, local residents say they're still concerned about the economy in Clayton County and the rest of the country. The job market is still tight, residents say, with those who are out of work struggling to re-enter the labor force.

"It's still bad," said Clayton County resident Josie Parker. "Every time I open my stock reports I see it. I have friends who have worked in financial institutions that have shut down, and they're finding it hard to get jobs."

"I think the economy is going to rebound, but I don't think it's started yet," said Phyllis Ajoy, a Jonesboro resident. "The stock market is starting to go up, but overall I think the economy is still down."

Emory Brock, director of economic development for Clayton County, knows that the county's economy is suffering. But, he says, the community has made it through much worse times n such as the recession of the early 1990s coupled with the shutdown of Atlanta-based Eastern Airlines.

"The economy, at least here locally, has not turned the corner yet," Brock said. "It has been worse before, in other places in Georgia and here. But we came through it. It will come back up."

Nationwide, unemployment has increased by 913,000 since March. Two million people were unemployed for 27 weeks or more last month, an increase of 410,000 since the start of the year.

Economists say one reason the unemployment rate rose so much last month is because about 600,000 more people entered the job market seeking work due to optimism about a possible economic rebound. But without enough jobs to accommodate the job seekers, the rate rose drastically.

Manufacturing led in payroll cuts last month, with 56,000 jobs lost. Since July 2000, the nation's factories have cut 2.6 million jobs.

Jobs have been added in the construction industry, however, as low interest rates have spurred the building of homes and offices. The health care, leisure and hospitality and temporary employment services industries all saw job gains last month, as well.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.