By Johnny Jackson
Officials announced Friday that Georgia's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate reached a record high 10.3 percent in July, surpassing June's rate of 10.1 percent.
The new figure places the state at 37th in the nation. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the highest unemployment rates are in states along the West Coast, and in the Southeast, as well as states in the Ohio River Valley, where Michigan has the nation's highest unemployment rate at 15 percent.
The states that are hurting the most tend to be those that had disproportionate exposure to construction, real estate and manufacturing, said Roger Tutterow, a professor of economics at Mercer University.
Georgia's unemployment rate has risen by more than 4.1 percentage points from July of 2008, when it was 6.2 percent, to this July's 10.3 percent.
"It's not a surprise that it's continued to rise," Tutterow said. "It's not unusual for the unemployment rate to continue to rise even after the economy has started to come back. I think we will probably see job losses through the remainder of the year."
The Georgia Department of Labor reported about 4.08 million workers held jobs statewide in July of 2008, compared to 3.88 million workers who held jobs this past July.
Employment declined in metro Atlanta as well, as only about 2.30 million metro-Atlanta workers held jobs last month, in comparison to 2.41 million employed workers in July of 2008.
State labor officials said Georgia's jobless rate has continued to be higher than the national rate for the 21st consecutive month. The national rate was up to 9.4 percent in July.
The state lost jobs mostly in industries such as manufacturing, trade, transportation and warehousing, but gained jobs in health care and private educational services, according to State Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond. Local and state governmental-education sectors also added some jobs over the year, Thurmond said.
According to Thurmond, there were 493,748 unemployed Georgians looking for work in July, a 63.6 percent, year-over-year hike in job-seekers, compared to July of 2008.
He added that many of those - 163,839, or 33.2 percent - received state unemployment insurance benefits in July, with some 140,000 receiving federally-funded extended benefits.
"Although layoffs are moderating, nearly a half-million Georgians are officially unemployed," he said. "These jobless workers could comprise a mythical unemployment line that stretches from Dalton to Atlanta, through Macon and down to Valdosta."
Figures released by the state's labor department earlier this month indicated that new unemployment insurance claims rose, year-over-year, in Henry and Clayton counties. Henry claims rose by about 91 percent in July, compared to July of 2008, while claims in Clayton increased by about 68 percent over the year.
State officials noted, however, that claims decreased in the two counties, from June to July - by 7.3 percent in Clayton, and by 2.5 percent in Henry.