ALBANY, Ga. — The first set of local unemployment numbers for the year indicates that both Albany and Southwest Georgia saw an increase in jobless rates in January.
The Georgia Department of Labor announced Thursday that the unemployment rate in the five-county metropolitan Albany area rose to 9.7 percent in January, up three-tenths of a percentage point from 9.4 percent in December.
The rate for January rose from the previous month because of two primary factors — a loss of seasonal jobs and an increase in new layoffs represented by initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits, officials from the Labor Department said. The Albany rate was 10 percent in January 2012.
Metro Albany comprises Baker, Dougherty, Lee, Terrell and Worth counties.
At the same time, the unemployment rate in the Southwest Georgia region rose to 9.4 percent in January, up from 9.1 percent in December.
The regional jobless rate was 9.6 percent for January 2012.
This January, the rate rose because there were 793 more new claims for unemployment benefits in construction, manufacturing, trade, transportation and warehousing, health care and social assistance and accommodations and food services.
At least one expert suggests that it may be more useful to look at how this performance relates to last year and how Albany compares with other areas in the state.
“On the positive side, both Albany and Southwest Georgia experienced job gains and improved unemployment rates over the last year,” said Aaron Johnson, assistant professor of economics at Darton State College. “When looking at the Albany area, most of those gains took place in the services industry, so that indicates that economic activity has improved over the last year.
“On the negative side, the rate of job growth and improvement in the unemployment rate is below the state average.”
While initial claims in Southwest Georgia were up from December to January, they were down by 337, or 11.1 percent, from 3,031 in January 2012. The decline in claims led to a year-over-year drop in the region’s jobless rate, Labor Department officials said.
The number of jobs in the metro area declined by 800, or 1.3 percent, from December to January. However, metro Albany started the year with 200 more jobs in January than a year ago. Over the year, jobs were up by three-tenths of a percentage point from 60,500 last year. The job increases came mostly in the service-related industries, officials say.
The number of initial claims, tied to many of the seasonal layoffs, rose in Albany by 62.5 percent from 798 to 1,297. Most of the claims were filed in construction, manufacturing, trade, transportation and warehousing and administrative and support services.
Of the 14 metro areas, Athens had the lowest unemployment rate at 6.6 percent while Dalton had the highest at 11.9 percent. Out of the 11 regions, the Georgia Mountains area had the lowest rate at 8 percent while the Heart of Georgia-Altamaha area was at 11.9 percent.
Georgia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for January was 8.7 percent, unchanged from December. The rate was 9.3 percent in January 2012.