By Johnny Jackson
State officials believe recent unemployment numbers indicate that workers are continuing to fall out of the labor market in Georgia.
The Georgia Department of Labor reported Thursday that the state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined slightly to 9.9 percent in July, down one-tenth of a percentage point from 10.0 percent in June. It is the 34th consecutive month Georgia has exceeded the national unemployment rate, currently at 9.5 percent.
State Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond said the small dip in the unemployment rate was primarily the result of the state's labor force shrinking by 21,043 from June to July, as long-term unemployed workers became discouraged, and gave up their job search.
The state's labor force has deteriorated by more than 40,000 over the past two months, the first such significant drop in the labor force since 2001, he said.
"Although the unemployment rate remained virtually unchanged, a growing number of discouraged workers [19,026 in June] dropped out of the workforce," Thurmond said. "For the second consecutive month, the number of jobs in our state declined, new layoffs increased, and long-term unemployment continued to rise."
The U.S. Department of Labor published its weekly claims report also on Thursday, noting that the largest increases in initial unemployment insurance claims for the week ending Aug. 7, came from California, Indiana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Georgia.
In Georgia, specifically, some 68,000 laid-off workers filed initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits in July, an increase of 3,295, or 5.1 percent, from 64,794 in June, according to the Georgia Department of Labor.
Even so, that 68,000 was a significant decline in initial claims -- 25,899 -- from the 93,988 filed the previous year, according to Thurmond.
Most of the first-time claims, according to state statistics, were filed in manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, administrative and support services, and construction.
The number of payroll jobs in July decreased by 21,600, or six-tenths of a percent, from 3,827,200 in June, to 3,805,600 in July.
The state labor department said there were 230,100 long-term unemployed Georgians in July (those who have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer). This represents an increase of 108,900 -- or 89.9 percent -- from the 121,200 long-term unemployed in July 2009. However, it is only an increase of 100 from June of this year.