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Jobless rate up again

By Justin Reedy

Unemployment in Clayton County has risen to a level rarely seen here since the shutdown of Eastern Airlines in the early 1990s.

There were 9,770 jobless workers in Clayton County in June, an increase of more than 1,300 from May, according to statistics released by the Georgia Department of Labor. The county's unemployment rate n the percentage of people in the workforce who can't find work n rose from 5.9 percent in May to 6.7 percent last month.

Neighboring Henry County also saw a sharp increase in unemployment, with the number of jobless residents climbing from 3,067 in May to 3,689 in June. Henry's unemployment rate also went up eight-tenths of a percent, from 4.2 to 5.0 percent.

Metro Atlanta and the state overall saw drastic increases in unemployment last month as well. There were nearly 20,000 more unemployed metro area residents last month compared to May, while about 35,000 more Georgians were out of work.

In addition, June saw the state's initial unemployment claims rise to their highest level in 21 years.

"The magnitude of the June increase in unemployment is troubling," said state Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond. "Hopeful job seekers, students completing their education and previously discouraged workers are streaming into the job market at a time when many employees are reluctant to resume hiring. Combine these factors with a sustained high level of layoffs and you have a difficult situation."

Much of the increase is likely due to high school and college graduates, as well as people who have been out of work for long periods of time, trying to enter the workforce. But the increase still isn't a good sign for the state's economy, officials say.

Though many signs point to a still-struggling economy, Morrow resident Coleshia Moore thinks the situation is being hyped to allow companies to lay off more workers.

"Of course the economy is down a bit, but I think it is not as bad as it seems," Moore said. "I think a lot of companies are using that as an excuse to get rid of employees."

And though many experts say the national economy is starting to rebound, local business leaders say that's not true here just yet.

"You keep seeing national reports that the economy is stabilizing, and that may be true on a national level but here in Atlanta it's not true yet," said Emory Brock, director of economic development for Clayton County. "We might still be in for a slow, slow recovery."

Though Brock is optimistic that the county and the rest of the metro area will recover from the current recession, he's worried by how long it has been hanging around and how much it has affected Clayton County.

"This is the most severe and longest-running recession I've been in," Brock said. "(An unemployment rate of 6.7 percent) is probably one of the highest rates we've had since Eastern Airlines shut down."