Area jobless rate stabilizing

ALBANY -- While the numbers appear sobering, officials are stressing that economic recovery is on the horizon.

The Georgia Department of Labor reported Thursday that the preliminary unadjusted unemployment rate in metro Albany had declined to 11.4 percent in February, down from a revised 11.6 percent in January.

Meanwhile, the number of unemployed workers in the area declined to 18,626, down from 18,688 in January.

An analysis done on Southwest Georgia as a whole indicated that the area's preliminary unadjusted unemployment rate had declined to 11.2 percent in February, down from a revised 11.3 percent in January. The number of unemployed workers in the region decreased to 8,782, down from 8,867 in January.

The state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to a record 10.5 percent in February, up one-tenth of a percentage point from January. Georgia has exceeded the national seasonally adjusted rate for 29 consecutive months. The national rate is currently 9.7 percent.

Based on the most recent numbers, officials with the Labor Department say the state has finally turned a corner, meaning that unemployment and layoffs have hit bottom and are starting to level off.

"Georgia's job market has reached a critical inflection point," said State Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond in a statement to the media. "Stabilizing unemployment rates and significant declines in new layoffs suggest that we are on the threshold of sustainable job growth."

The state's February jobless rate was up 1.8 percentage points from the same time last year. The jobless rate in metro Albany in February 2009 was 8.3 percent.

In February, 937 laid-off workers in Albany filed initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits, a decrease of 453, or 32.6 percent, from January. There was an increase of 35, or 3.9 percent, in claims filed during February 2009. More than 66,000 laid-off workers filed initial claims statewide last month, a decrease of 29,195, or 30.6 percent, from January. There was a decline of 20,450, or 23.6 percent, in claims filed from the same time last year.

The jobless rate for the Southwest Georgia area in February 2009 was 9 percent.

In a county-by-county breakdown of unemployment rates from last month, Dougherty was at 12.5 percent, Lee was at 8.8, Worth was at 12.1 percent, Terrell was at 10.9 percent and Baker was at 10.8 percent.

Further analysis showed that Albany experienced moderate over-the-month job growth in the private service-providing sector, gaining 400 jobs. Fewer claims in the manufacturing, construction and administrative services sectors contributed to the overall drop in claims within the region.