By Johnny Jackson
Georgians learned Thursday that the state's economic situation has not improved. Instead, a record number of them are without jobs.
The Georgia Department of Labor reported that the state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose in February to 9.3 percent, the highest ever recorded in the state. It was 8.5 percent in January.
"For the second consecutive month Georgia suffered from record unemployment," said State Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond. "Times are difficult, but not hopeless. I encourage all Georgians to keep the faith. Don't give in, don't give up, and don't give out."
More than 445,000 unemployed Georgians are looking for work, an increase of 69 percent over the year. And 160,000 of those jobseekers (36 percent) are receiving unemployment insurance benefits.
The number of payroll jobs in February of this year were 189,800 fewer than in February 2008. Most of the losses were in manufacturing and construction, trade, transportation and warehousing, and professional and business services.
"I would like to thank Gov. Sonny Perdue for his support in agreeing to accept [federal stimulus funds for unemployment insurance benefits], which will be used to help unemployed Georgians weather the current economic crisis," Thurmond said. "I look forward to working with him to help create new jobs and restore our state's economy."
Thurmond advised jobseekers to expand their job searches, explore new training and educational opportunities and to make full use of the re-employment services at the department's career centers.
One Henry County observer is expecting the state's unemployment rate to continue to rise. "I think it's got another percentage point to go, or more," said Steve Cash, executive director of the Henry Council for Quality Growth. "I think we'll continue to notice a decline in jobs."
Cash said Henry County's more rural nature and steady growth may be an advantage to the county's over-all economic health. "Henry County's largest industry was construction," said Cash, adding that the county has lost thousands of jobs due to the downturn in the housing market.
"It's always a cycle that commercial follows residential," he said. "Commercial follows the roof tops. In years gone by, as the population of Henry reached the 100,000 mark, you saw a wave of businesses coming to Henry County to service that population."
The number of new business start-ups are beginning to go down, following a decline in home sales in the region. But Cash said he anticipates a gradual increase in residential business in the coming months to be followed by more commercial business as the economy turns around.
"In spite of the economic times, there will still be growth in Henry County," Cash continued. "We are adjusting, and we still have affordable property here."
Those left without jobs around the state may not be as optimistic.
The February jobless rate last year was 5.4 percent, compared to 9.3 percent this year, and Georgia's rate has remained above the national rate of 8.1 percent for the 16th consecutive month.
For more information, visit the Georgia Department of Labor's web site.
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