Metro Albany jobless rate drops

ALBANY -- Numbers released Thursday by the Georgia Department of Labor showed that the preliminary unadjusted unemployment rate in Metro Albany declined to 10.9 percent in March, down four-tenths of a percentage point from a revised 11.3 in February.

The department reported the number of unemployed workers in the area fell to 8,477, down 227 from 8,704 in February.

"This is obviously a good sign, excellent news for the local (labor) market," Albany-Dougherty Economic Development President Ted Clem said. "Ten-point-nine percent is still high, but this is good news. To me it indicates economic recovery is just starting in Albany."

Darton Assistant Professor of Economics Aaron Johnson agrees.

"These numbers support that economic activity is starting to build up and translate into more job creation. Within our area, we have benefited from expansion at Equinox and Coats and Clark, Johnson said. "Even with the decline in manufacturing activity over the last decade, we still have a strong base with the presence of MillerCoors and Procter and Gamble. State manufacturing activity has been trending up over the last several months, so that is an impetus to more job creation."

The statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to a record 10.6 percent in March, up one-tenth of a percentage point from February. This marks the 30th consecutive month that Georgia has exceeded the national seasonally adjusted rate of 9.7 percent.

"Locally, we have to realize that Albany was the one of the first to feel the effects of the recession and we'll be one of the last to feel the effects of the recovery," Clem said. "That is one of the facts of life we have to deal with here."

In March, 1,086 laid-off workers filed initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits in Albany, and increase of 149, or 15.9 percent, from 937 in February.

There was a decrease of 99, or 8.4 percent, from 1,185 initial claims filed in March of last year.

Statewide, 69,265 laid-off workers filed initial claims, a decrease of 27,041, or 28 percent, from 96,306 claims filed in March 2009. There was a small month-over-month increase of 3,196, or 4.6 percent, from 66,069 in February.

Most of the first-time claims were filed in manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, construction and administrative and support services.

"Like it our not, this is not going to be a robust recovery," Clem said, "but it will be slow and steady."

On a positive note, the state added 10,500 new jobs in March, an increase of three-tenths of a percentage point, from 3,784,900 in February to 3,795,400.

In the five-county metro Albany area, 600 jobs were added, an increase of 1 percent, from 61,700 to 62,300 over the same one month period.