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Metro Albany jobless rate hits 10.3% in September

ALBANY -- Southwest Georgia's job market continues to feel the harsh impacts of a shaky economy.

The Georgia Department of Labor reported Thursday that the preliminary unadjusted unemployment rate in the metro Albany rose to 10.3 percent in September, up from a revised 10 percent in August.

Meanwhile, the number of unemployed workers in the area increased by 194, from 7,556 in August to 7,750 in September.

A county-by-county analysis of unemployment rates had Dougherty at 11.1 percent, Lee at 7.9 percent, Worth at 10.8 percent, Terrell at 11.6 percent and Baker at 9.1 percent.

"The recent numbers suggest that the job picture remains stagnant," said Aaron Johnson, assistant professor of economics at Darton College.

In September 2008, there were 5,391 jobless workers in Albany, when the unemployment rate was 7.1 percent. The number of payroll jobs this year in metro Albany was 61,500, a loss of 2,400, or 3.8 percent, from 63,900 in September 2008.

In order to find recovery in the economy, the key might be for workers to expand their skill sets, Johnson added.

"As for the next couple of months, our main challenge will be to continue transitioning our workforce away from manufacturing jobs to other technical fields," he said. "While we continue to benefit from the presence of MillerCoors and Procter and Gamble, it will be critical to expand our local skill sets to take advantage of jobs in the medical field, education, and the Marine Corps Logistics Base.

"While many of those jobs require significant education, there are other opportunities available that might require certifications that can be earned in less than a year.

"My suggestion is for individuals to take advantage of resources aimed at boosting workforce skills. As our local workforce skills increase, this will better position ourselves to attract more industry and jobs."

Improving transportation and revitalizing downtown would be beneficial to the area job market, Johnson said.

"It will take a unified effort of local officials, citizens, and private businesses to work toward the common goal of creating a more vibrant local economy," Johnson added.

Statewide, the number of payroll jobs in September was 3,844,400, a decrease of 237,100, or 5.8 percent, from the same time last year. The over-the-year losses came in manufacturing, trade, construction and administrative support services, including temporary employment services.

"The increase in unemployment was tied to job losses in the private sector, especially in construction and retail trade," said Ralph Towler, labor market analyst with the state Labor Department.

Educational and health services added 13,700 jobs over the year. The state's labor force decreased 117,230, or 2.4 percent, from 4,852,086 in September 2008 to 4,734,856 last month.

Meanwhile, the state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was unchanged at 10.1 percent from August to September. The national rate is 9.8 percent.