ATLANTA -- Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said Thursday that the state's unemployment rate has declined for the sixth month in a row.
January's jobless rate was 9.2 percent, compared to a revised rate of 9.4 percent in December. Butler said that figure is the lowest rate since March 2009, when it was 9.1 percent.
"I think it shows that Georgia businesses are starting to show confidence in the economy," Butler said. "They're looking to expand and grow. That's what we've been waiting to see."
The rate compares to a 10.1 percent jobless figure in January 2011. Since then, Butler said, the state has gained nearly 84,000 jobs -- which he cites as the largest year-to-year increase since 2006. He attributes the gains to growth in various sectors, including 37,000 more jobs in professional and business services, 15,100 in retail trade, 11,100 in health care and social assistance and 7,300 new manufacturing.
The state lost more than 45,000 jobs between December and January -- typically a period of decline due to the loss of seasonal jobs -- but about 13,000 more Georgians returned to the workforce during the same time period. Butler said this is the smallest December to January job loss since 1987.
First-time unemployment insurance claims rose to 77,756, up 22 percent from 63,714 in December, mostly attributed to seasonal layoffs in retail trade and construction. But the number of initial claims decreased 13 percent from January 2011. The number of long-term unemployed workers dipped only slightly, decreasing 900 to 244,200 since December. That figure is the fewest number since October 2010.