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Unemployment claims rise in metro Albany

ALBANY, Ga. -- Officials with the Georgia Department of Labor reported Thursday that 1,369 laid-off workers in metro Albany filed initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits in January, an increase of 200, or 17.1 percent, from December.

The construction industry accounted for most of the over-the-month increase. Meanwhile, there was a decline of 21, or 1.5 percent, from the 1,390 claims filed in January 2010.

Of the 14 major metropolitan areas in the state, only Columbus, Rome and Savannah reported decreases in initial claims filed from December to January, even though 12 of the 14 showed over-the-year decreases.

Albany, with its 1.5 percent drop, was one of those 12.

"These figures are fairly consistent with national trends, which also saw a year-to-year decline in unemployment claims," said Aaron Johnson, assistant professor of economics at Darton College.

"Typically, this is a sign that the labor market is improving, but it is misleading in this case. I speculate that abnormal weather conditions kept job seekers at home, rather than looking for work."

In January, officials with the Labor Department reported the preliminary unadjusted unemployment rate in metro Albany was 10.5 in December. This is reflective of a decrease of two-tenths of a percentage point from November.

Statewide, 89,659 laid-off workers filed initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits in January, an increase of 14,024, or 18.5 percent, from what was filed in December. There was a decline of 5,605, or 5.9 percent, from the 95,264 filed at the same time last year.

Much of the over-the-month increase in statewide claims occurred in manufacturing, construction, administrative and support services and trade.

"Most of these were seasonal layoffs that occur each year," said State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler in a statement. "However, I am concerned that the number of long-term unemployed Georgians continues to increase. This is a sure sign that the state's job market remains soft."

There were 262,700 long-term unemployed Georgians in January. This represents an increase of 84,100, or 47.1 percent, from the 178,600 reported in January 2010.

Long-term unemployment is defined as being out of work for 27 weeks or longer.