Area unemployment rates take big drop

ALBANY -- It's a story that rings all too true.

The Georgia Department of Labor reported Thursday that the preliminary unadjusted unemployment rate in metro Albany was at 10.5 percent in September.

This is down four-tenths of a percentage point from the August rate. At the same time, the preliminary unadjusted unemployment rate in Southwest Georgia was 10.1 percent in September, five-tenths of a percentage point lower than the previous month.

Meanwhile, the number of unemployed workers in metro Albany decreased by 357 to 7,958. In Southwest Georgia, the number of jobless people decreased by 969 to 16,540.

Officials on the state level are continuing to say that the more recent fluctuations reflect discouragement amongst those out of work.

"While the local unemployment rate dropped, the change was primarily due to people leaving the work force, often because of their inability to find work, rather than an increase in hiring," said Labor Department Commissioner Michael Thurmond. "Employers are often hesitant to hire in an uncertain economy."

The jobless rate in Albany and Southwest Georgia was 10.2 percent in September 2009. At the same time, the state rate was 10.1 percent.

The state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was unchanged at 10 percent from August to September. There were 466,234 jobless Georgians last month, during which time 50.7 percent of those people had been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer -- the first time that has happened in the state.

Even though the unemployment rate remained unchanged, the number of payroll jobs in Georgia decreased by 7,600, or two-tenths of a percentage point, to 3.813 million in September. At the same time last year, there were 3.836 million payroll jobs in the state, 22,400 more than this year.

In metro Albany, the number of payroll jobs decreased by 500 over the month to 61,400. In a county-by-county breakdown of unemployment rates Dougherty was at 11.5 percent, Lee was at 8 percent, Worth was at 11 percent, Terrell was at 11.2 percent and Baker was at 8.9 percent.

"Overall, the latest numbers show that our region showed modest improvement relative to the rest of the state," said Aaron Johnson, assistant professor of economics at Darton College. "As we look into the future, we are approaching the holiday season. With Albany being the regional shopping hub of the area, it is possible that we can (expect) more improvement in local jobs. While certainly it will not be robust, many analysts expect holiday sales will be slightly better than the previous year."

Last month, 809 laid-off workers in metro Albany filed initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits, a 34.3 percent decrease from 1,232 in August. Statewide, 57,146 laid-off workers filed initial claims for unemployment benefits -- a decrease of 18.7 percent from August.

"Another trend to monitor as we look into the future is the effects of stimulus funding aimed at retraining individuals laid off due to the effects of our recession," Johnson continued. "It should be noted that going back to school will not yield immediate benefits, but we should start to see some positive effects soon as our displaced workers matriculate from local schools."