ALBANY, Ga. — While Albany did not have a change in jobs gains or losses during the course of 2012, during that period the region had a drop in initial unemployment insurance claim filings.
Since that time, the state's unemployment rate has gone up again.
The Georgia Department of Labor announced Thursday that the state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 8.6 percent in December, up one-tenth of a percentage point from 8.5 percent in November.
The rate was 9.4 percent in December a year ago.
"The unemployment rate ticked up slightly because of a combination of factors," state Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said in a news release. "We had a modest increase in new layoffs, along with a small job loss driven primarily by seasonal layoffs in education. Basically, the December numbers are flat, but even so, this is the best November to December job market report since 2007.
"The most important thing to remember from this report is that our unemployment rate is much lower, the pace of new layoffs slower and the number of jobs significantly larger than a year ago. Our economy has definitely improved in the past year."
The Labor Department also released data Thursday on initial unemployment claims and job gains and losses in the individual metropolitan areas across the state.
For Albany, job gains and losses were flat during the course of the last 12 months. At the same time, initial unemployment insurance claims for the area decreased from 1,006 in December 2011 to 798 at the same time a year later, reflecting a drop of 20.7 percent.
Aaron Johnson, assistant professor of economics at Darton State College, said that, in Georgia, there has been improvement during the last year that can be attributed to an emergence from the housing crisis. He also said, despite the year's improvement relative to Georgia's neighboring states, the state's unemployment rates still remain among the highest of all the contiguous states.
"As we look to the future, we need to monitor the progress of Congress with the looming specter of the debt ceiling, which is creating uncertainty among businesses," he said.
While the number of jobs in Georgia decreased by 400 to 3.985 million in December, it rose by 70,200, or 1.8 percent, from 3.915 million a year ago. Most of the over-the-year job growth came in professional and business services; trade, transportation and warehousing; education and health care; leisure and hospitality, and manufacturing, Labor Department officials say.
The number of initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits increased to 50,861, up by 7.4 percent from 47,351 in November. Most of the increase came in manufacturing, construction, wholesale trade, and administrative and support services. However, the number of initial claims was down by 12,853 over the year, dropping from 63,714 in December 2011, officials said Thursday.
Most of the over-the-year decline came in accommodations and food services, manufacturing, administrative and support services, construction and retail trade.
Georgia's labor force reached 4.804 million in December, its highest level since February 2009. The labor force has grown by 64,384, or 1.4 percent, from 4.740 million in December 2011, the Labor Department said.
The long-term unemployed, those out of work for more than 26 weeks, now make up 47.1 percent of the unemployed in Georgia.