Local economy may be rising from 2003 slump

By Billy Corriher

The national economy continued to struggle in 2003, and Clayton County was certainly no exception.

John Hancock, legal counsel for the county's chamber of commerce, said that, before this year, the metro-Atlanta area did not feel the impact of this particular recession as much as the rest of the state.

This year was a different story, he said, as the effects of the rough economy and a high unemployment rate were apparent throughout the county.

But Hancock said that most chamber members think the local economy is picking up at the year's end.

"The last quarter (of 2003) seems to be picking up," he said.

"All of my clients are excited about 2004."

Layoffs continued in Clayton County this year, contributing to even higher unemployment. The county also lost over 1,000 jobs when the J.C. Penney catalog distribution center in Forest Park shut down in March.

The Georgia Department of Labor estimates there were more than 7,500 people unemployed in the county in November 2003, which was a small decline from October.

But the county still has one of the highest jobless rates in the metro-Atlanta area and the state average of 4 percent.

The chamber of commerce is also moving forward with its search for a new president after the former president, Shane Moody, stepped down in November to take a job at a chamber of commerce in Florida.

Moody stepped down as president about three weeks after realizing his goal of moving the chamber's offices closer to the center of the county.

The chamber's offices are now located on Mount Zion Road in Jonesboro.

Hancock said the deadline for receiving applications is today and the chamber's search committee will begin narrowing down the list of applicants to interview in January.