Unemployment down in Clayton

By Justin Reedy

The number of unemployed workers dropped in April for the Southern Crescent and the rest of metro Atlanta, and the area's workforce is also expanding.

There were 7,651 unemployed Clayton County residents in April, which is 360 fewer workers than were out of work in March. Henry County saw a slight dip in unemployment that month, as well, with about 40 fewer residents out of work.

Both counties also saw increases in their job base in April. There were nearly 300 more Henry residents in the work force compared to March, and about 500 more Clayton residents found jobs in April.

The unemployment rate decreases and expanding job base seen in the Southern Crescent parallels similar upturns for the metro Atlanta area and the state overall. Compared to March, about 5,000 fewer metro residents were out of work in April, while the state's unemployment rolls dropped by nearly 12,000 people.

Unemployment statistics are considered an indicator of economic activity, so the decrease in the number of jobless residents bodes well for the local economy.

"That's good news," said Emory Brock, director of economic development for Clayton County. "That is a good sign. It was just this week when (Federal Reserve Chairman Alan) Greenspan said the recession has made the turn, and that we're improving. If he's right, maybe we'll see some stability."

State Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond tempered the good news by warning that the state's economy may not have turned the corner yet.

"The drop in unemployment and the addition of new jobs are good news for the Atlanta area," Thurmond said. "However, I remain concerned about the short-term statewide outlook."

And though some area residents have been able to find work, many others, like Jonesboro resident Cynthia Williams, are still searching for a job. Williams was laid off from Sprint last summer and hasn't had any jobs other than temporary positions since. She believes the economy is still struggling, despite the fact that the unemployment rate is dropping.

"People are taking whatever they can get now," Williams said. "Folks who were making $12 an hour and lost their jobs are taking work at $7 or $8 an hour because it's all they can get."

For Williams and her husband, Barry, the responsibility lies with President Bush and his economic policies.

"He cares about corporate interests more than public well-being," Barry Williams said. "His tax cut doesn't help anybody but the top one percent."

And though some statistics indicate that the economy is starting to rebound, Rex resident Elijah Thornton thinks that kind of talk may be premature.

"I know a few people who are out of work," Thornton said. "The economy seems about the same now. The way they put it in the news is that it's going back up, but it seems like it's just stable."

Thornton isn't one of the thousands of Clayton County residents who are out of work, but he knows that's always a possibility. As the employee of a government contractor, cutbacks to the federal budget or some other factor could cost him his job.

"They laid off a couple hundred a few months ago," he said. "If they lay off again, then I'll be out of work."