By Johnny Jackson
Officials with the Georgia Department of Labor announced Thursday that the number of new, local, unemployment insurance benefit claims decreased slightly from June to July.
Figures released by the state's labor department indicate that new claims in Clayton and Henry counties decreased by 7.3 percent in Clayton, and by 2.5 percent in Henry.
The rates in the two communities are still high year-over-year, however. Clayton's claims rose some 68 percent in July, compared to July of 2008.
Henry County continues to see nearly twice the number of claims each month, compared to the previous year. Labor department figures show that 1,373 claims were filed this July in Henry, about 91 percent more than in July of 2008.
"The July jobless claims report presents a classic good news/bad news scenario," said State Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond. "Fewer Georgians are being laid off, but a rising number of laid-off workers are remaining unemployed for longer periods of time."
The number of jobless workers receiving state unemployment insurance benefits rose 83 percent over the year, from 89,603 in July of 2008, to 163,839 this July.
Thurmond said about 140,000 unemployment insurance claimants are receiving federally-funded extended benefits, bringing the total number of unemployment insurance claimants to 303,839 statewide.
According to the state's labor department, Georgia's jobless workers drew unemployment insurance benefits for an average of 13.4 weeks this year (as measured in July), compared to an average of 11.5 weeks in 2008.
The department also reported that total, first-time claims in the state are still high, compared to this time a year ago. The department reported that 93,988 laid-off workers filed claims in July, an increase of 58.9 percent from July of 2008.
Reports of the state's initial claims for July - filed mostly by laid-off workers in manufacturing, retail trades, construction, and administrative services - are coming on the heels of record-high jobless rates for Georgia.
In July, the labor department announced that the state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate jumped from 9.6 percent in May, to 10.1 percent in June, the highest rate ever recorded in Georgia. The spike kept Georgia's unemployment rate above the national rate of 9.5 percent for the 20th consecutive month.