Unemployment rises across Metro Atlanta

Seasonal layoffs lead to an increase in Atlanta’s unemployment rate:

December 2008 to January 2009: .9 percent.

December 2009 to January 2010: .5 percent.

December 2010 to January 2011: .3 percent.

December 2011 to January 2012: .2 percent.

December 2012 to January 2013: .3 percent.

Layoffs at the mall, factory and construction site triggered a rise in metro Atlanta’s unemployment rate in January to 8.7 percent, the state labor department reported Thursday.

The rate stood at 8.4 percent in December.

January, though, is typically one of the cruelest months for the region’s workers as many weather- and holiday-dependent jobs disappear. Retailers lay off the temp workers they hired for Christmas. Manufacturers shut down to refurbish equipment. Builders come in from the cold.

The unemployment rate, for at least the last dozen years, has risen between December and January. A year ago, it rose 0.2 percent, according to statistics provided by the Georgia Department of Labor. During the depth of the Great Recession, between December 2008 and January 2009, it rose 0.9 percent.

“The good news is that this was one of the better Januarys in the last four years,” labor commissioner Mark Butler said in an interview. “Our workforce numbers keep increasing. We’re adding jobs … over the last year. We’re headed in the right direction.”

The 28-county Atlanta region has added 63,400 jobs since January 2012, mostly in the professional and business service sectors, logistics, health care and hospitality. The unemployment rate topped 9.4 percent in January 2012.

Still, Atlanta’s rate remains well above the national average — 7.9 percent. And, while the U.S. economy added jobs in January, Atlanta lost 29,100 jobs between December and January.

“We’ve replaced about 45 percent of the jobs lost during the Great Recession. The U.S. has replaced about 55 percent of its lost jobs,” said Jeff Humphreys, an economist at the University of Georgia. “So we’ve got a tougher challenge to replace the lost jobs because we were hit harder by the recession.”

In Atlanta, 9,751 newly jobless workers filed claims for unemployment insurance in January, a 45 percent increase from December. A year ago January, 9,225 initial unemployment claims were filed with the labor department.

Atlanta’s unemployment isn’t the worst in Georgia: Augusta, Brunswick, Columbus, Macon and Rome all post higher jobless rates. Dalton and central Georgia notched the worst rates — 11.9 percent.

Athens, at 6.6 percent, won Georgia’s jobs sweepstakes with an unemployment rate of 6.6 percent.

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