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State offers services to help ease unemployment

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

The jobless rate continues to grow in metro Atlanta, and 343,093 unemployed Georgians are still looking for work, according to a report released by the Georgia Department of Labor.

The report states that metro Atlanta's unemployment rate increased to about 6.8 percent in October, up from 4.4 percent a year ago.

The number of payroll jobs has decreased by 1.5 percent (61,300 jobs) over the past year, the largest October-to-October decline in jobs ever recorded. In metro Atlanta, the number of jobs in October dropped by 1.8 percent (44,800 jobs) over the same period a year ago.

In nearly all major sectors of emploment, the effects of the nation's economic recession are evident, according to Ralph Towler, a labor market analyst with the Department of Labor.

Statewide, the manufacturing industry is seeing the largest number of initial unemployment claims, making up about 32 percent of all claimants in October - 9,000 of the 23,000 claims. Construction job losses represent about 10 percent of the claims, followed by 9 percent in retail trades.

Henry County, which has a transient workforce of 96,834 people, is following a statewide trend with unemployment numbers reflecting those at the state level. Statewide, the rate was 6.7 percent in October. That same month, the unemployment rate was 6.8 percent in Henry. The rate was 4.4 percent in October 2007.

Even so, the Southern Crescent is fairing better than about a dozen non-metro Atlanta counties, that have moved into double digits in their rates of unemployment.

"Georgia's economy continues to suffer from increasing job losses and rising unemployment," said State Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond. "I commend our state's congressional delegation and President Bush for approving extended unemployment insurance benefits for the more than 90,000 Georgians who may be eligible under the new law. This is welcomed and much-needed financial assistance, as they search for new jobs."

For the recently unemployed or underemployed, officials say there are some viable resources and opportunities that may offer some relief. Extended benefits could await recipients who have already exhausted their claims. If they meet eligibility requirements under the new legislation, they will receive written notification, an application, and instructions on how to apply.

Individuals, who are currently receiving unemployment insurance benefits and may be about to exhaust their claims, should continue to certify each week. They will automatically be enrolled for the extended benefits.

The Labor Department offers various other assistance programs. "We definitely have a lot of resources to help people who are employed, underemployed, or laid off," said Mark Connally, manager of the Clayton County Regional Career Center. The center serves Clayton, Henry, and Fayette counties.

The department's Georgia Works Program, gives claimants the opportunity to work on a job site as a potential applicant at no risk to the employer. The program allows applicants to work 24 hours a week, for up to eight weeks.

"That works well on two ends," Connally said. "The employer can get a chance to see applicants, and applicants have the chance to show the employer what they can do."

The regional career center also offers job-search tools and job-skills development, as well as financial-management workshops.

"Some people are first-time claimants that have never filed for unemployment before," Connally said. "Some of them are kind of scared, and I think that's where the Department of Labor comes in. We reassure them. We try to help them with career guidance, their skills, and try to help get them back to work as soon as possible."

He said that residents could take their unemployment status as an opportunity to get more job training as most industries have experienced some losses in workforce. "We're seeing it across the board - everything from manufacturing to real estate," he said. "We have manufacturers, some of your warehouse and distribution centers, but health care, we're not getting any. That's pretty much going strong."

For those income tax filers, who have been unemployed for less than one year and have acquired significant job-search expenses, like out-of-pocket travel to interviews, the costs may be deductible. Job-search expenses are claimed as part of the miscellaneous itemized deductions.

"To be able to claim these expenses, your total itemized deductions must be more than the standard deduction," said Gretchen Whitfield with H & R Block. "Also, your total miscellaneous expenses must be more than 2 percent of your adjusted gross income. For example, if your AGI is $40,000, only the portion of expenses greater than $800 is deductible."

Job-related expenses that may be deductible include: un-reimbursed business expenses while you were employed; educational courses or certification related to your work; tax preparation and tax planning fees; and, in some cases, moving or travel expenses.

For more about extended benefits, visit the Labor Department web site, or call (404) 232-4290.

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On the net:

Department of Labor:

www.dol.state.ga.us