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Jobless rate up in region

ALBANY, Ga. -- Local communities are continuing the feel the pain.

The Georgia Department of Labor reported Thursday that the preliminary unadjusted unemployment rates for August in Southwest Georgia and metro Albany were 10.6 percent and 10.9 percent, respectively.

These rates reflect an increase from July when Southwest Georgia had a rate of 10.4 percent and metro Albany's was 10.8 percent.

Meanwhile, the number of unemployed workers increased by 363 in the region and 80 in the metro area.

"The latest jobless numbers for Albany and Southwest Georgia confirm that there are not enough jobs being created to handle the new entrants entering the labor force," said Aaron Johnson, assistant professor of economics at Darton College. "Pessimistic feelings from both consumers and businesses are the primary drivers to the layoffs in retail trade and construction. There is still uncertainty within the economy that needs to be resolved before the private sector starts to hum again.

"A good indicator to seeing an improved local economy is us to see expansion within residential real estate. While it has not deteriorated, we need to see signs of expansion there before our labor markets will improve. When people are buying homes, then that will generate more economic activity in various sectors, such as furnishing, electronics and other households goods."

The state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose slightly from 9.9 percent to 10 percent in August, primarily because of layoffs in retail trade and construction. This is the 35th consecutive month Georgia's rate has exceeded the national rate, which is currently at 9.6 percent.

Taking this into account, what is happening in Albany is not all that different than what is going on throughout the state, experts say.

"The current increase in the unemployment rate for the Albany MSA, from 10.8 percent in July to 10.9 percent in August, mirrors the state's seasonally adjusted increase of one-tenth of a percentage point," said Mark Watson, a labor market analyst with the Labor Department.

In August 2009, the jobless rates in Southwest Georgia and metro Albany were both at 9.9 percent. In a county-by-county breakdown of unemployment rates for metro Albany counties last month, Dougherty was at 12 percent, Worth was at 11.6 percent, Lee was at 7.9 percent, Terrell was at 11.7 percent and Baker was at 9.8 percent.

"The slight increase in the unemployment rate is due to an increase in continued claims for unemployment insurance benefits in retail trade," said Watson. "This contributed to the increase in the total number of unemployed persons in Albany."

Although Georgia's jobless rate rose, the number of payroll jobs increased by 17,800, or five-tenths of a percentage point, from just over 3.8 million jobs in July. The number of jobs remains less than what it was in August 2009, when there were 3.847 million, or 26,700, more than this year.

Over the month, metro Albany gained 100 jobs -- making for a total of 61,800.

"Job gains in local government contributed to the over-the-month increase in employment." Watson explained.

Last month, 1,232 people in metro Albany filed initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits, a decrease of 69, or 5.3 percent, in July. Statewide, 70,264 laid-off workers filed initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits in August, an increase of 2,175, or 3.2 percent, from the previous month.

There was also an increase of 395 claims from the 69,869 filed in Georgia this time last year. Most of the first-time claims were in wholesale and retail trade, manufacturing, administrative and support services and construction.