Job market showing little improvement

ALBANY -- The situation for unemployed Georgia residents is not getting much easier.

The Labor Department announced Thursday that 72,298 laid-off workers filed initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits last month, a decrease of 2,182, or 2.9 percent, from November 2008.

Experts say the figures indicate that initial jobless claims are still high, and that the job market is showing little improvement. Even so, not all hope is lost.

"As of right now, not much has changed in the unemployment market in our region," said Aaron Johnson, assistant professor of economics at Darton College. "However if our national economic recovery becomes more sustained, we should eventually see more jobs start to filter down to Georgia and the Southwest Georgia region.

"However, our state and region will probably lag the national recovery due mainly to the housing troubles in Atlanta that have decreased state revenues."

The average length of time jobless Georgia workers drew benefits increased from 11.8 weeks in November 2008 to 14.8 weeks in November 2009. The number of initial claims filed last month showed an increase of 1,701, or 2.4 percent, from October.

In a breakdown by metropolitan area, Albany was shown to have a 34.8 percent increase from 910 claims this year to 1,227 claims this year. The Brunswick area was shown to have the largest increase at 54.2 percent.

Three areas were shown to have decreases in the number of initial claims filed, the greatest of which was in the Dalton area.

The city had a drop of 33.5 percent, from 5,549 last year to 3,691 this year.

In Albany's case specifically, the dividends of supplying employees with new skill sets will be how the region starts to notice recovery.

"Locally, we should eventually see the effects of stimulus funds used in re-educating our displaced manufacturing workers," Johnson said. "As they earn certifications and degrees, this will make them more marketable to local employers."

Initial unemployment insurance claims filed in metro Albany rose slightly in November to 1,227, up from 1,219 in October, officials at the Labor Department say .

The number of jobless workers receiving state unemployment insurance benefits rose 11.5 percent over the year, from 111,213 in November 2008 to 123,995 in November 2009. An additional 145,000 claimants are receiving federally-funded extended benefits, which brings the total number of beneficiaries to 268,995.

"Most of the increase in claims filed in the Albany MSA, both over the month and over the year, were found in the construction industry, along with others in administrative, professional and technical services," said Labor Department Communications Director Sam Hall.

Most of the statewide initial claims were filed by laid-off workers in manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, construction and administrative and support services.