Jobless rate drops below 10 percent

ALBANY, Ga. -- There is at least some hope.

The Georgia Department of Labor announced Thursday that Georgia's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined to 9.9 percent in April, down one-tenth of a percentage point from a revised 10 percent in March.

"Not only is this the first time in nearly two years that Georgia's unemployment rate has dipped into the single digits, but this is also the third consecutive month of job growth," said State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler in a news release. "This developing trend shows increasing confidence in the economy."

The state's jobless rate was 10.1 percent in April a year ago. The last time the state's rate was below 10 percent was in June 2009, when it was 9.8 percent.

There were job increases over both the month and year. There were 3,834,100 payroll jobs in April, up 30,100, or eight-tenths of a percentage point from 3,804,000 jobs in March. Most of the new jobs were added in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, trade, educational and health services, and construction.

Data broken down by metropolitan area showed a ray of light for the Albany area. Of the 14 metropolitan areas, Albany had the most gain in jobs over the past year with an increase of 1,700, or 2.8 percent.

"In terms of unemployment rate trends and job growth, we have seen improvement," said Aaron Johnson, assistant professor of economics at Darton College. "This is the fourth consecutive month that we have seen a decline in the unemployment rate and the third consecutive month that the labor market is expanding.

"Also, both figures are better than April of last year."

There was an increase statewide of 2,200 jobs, or one-tenth of a percentage point, from April 2010, data from the Labor Department showed.

The number of long-term unemployed workers also continued to decline. There were 254,800 long-term unemployed Georgians in April, down 6,700, or 2.6 percent, from March. However, the number of long-term unemployed remains 18.4 percent higher than the 215,100 from April of last year.

The long-term unemployed account for 55.1 percent of Georgia's 462,370 jobless workers. Long-term unemployment is defined by being out of work for 27 weeks or longer.

Also, 54,337 laid-off workers filed initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits in April, an increase of 4,006, or 8 percent, from the 50,331 filed in March. Most of the first-time claims were filed in manufacturing, administrative and support services, trade and construction.

But, there was an over-the-year decrease of 6,324 initial claims, or 10.4 percent, from what was filed in April of last year.

The metropolitan area breakdown also showed that Albany had the highest drop in initial unemployment claims over the course of 12 months with a decline of 453, or 31.8 percent.

April marked the 43rd consecutive month Georgia has exceeded the national unemployment rate, which is currently 9 percent.

The last time the Georgia rate dropped over the month while the United States rate increased was in April of last year. At that time, the state rate declined one-tenth of a percentage point to 10.1 percent, while the national rate rose one-tenth of a percentage point to 9.8 percent.