Georgia jobless rate up a bit, but below national

It was the fifth consecutive month in double digits, but also the first time in 48 months that Georgia’s jobless rate was not higher than the national average. The last time that happened, both Georgia and national rates were 4.8 percent.

Since breaching 10 percent, the Georgia rate has stayed in a narrow range, a plateau that could mean layoffs have eased. That rate hit a high of 10.3 percent in July.

Other indicators point toward a more pessimistic interpretation. For example, 70,597 Georgians filed first-time jobless claims during the month, a 6 percent increase from September.

During the past year, the state has lost 227,700 jobs – more than one of every 20. And with hiring too anemic to absorb the unemployed, roughly 500,000 Georgians are officially unemployed.

Metro Atlanta accounts for more than 60 percent of the losses, but the hardest hit area proportionally has been Dalton: 8.1 percent of its jobs have disappeared in the past year.

In contrast, Athens had the smallest percentage job losses during the year, 1.2 percent.

Payments of unemployment benefits have nearly depleted the state’s trust fund, state Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond told the Journal-Constitution earlier this week.

Thurmond said he will decide in December whether to ask for a federal loan. “The recession will not end for the thousands of jobless Georgians until more employers start hiring again,” he said.

Job losses have continued this fall despite the expansion of the economy, as measured by the gross domestic product.

And while the unemployment rate is the most widely watched measure of the labor market, it is also seen by economists as a rough guide at best.

Workers are not counted if they stop looking for a job, take part-time work, go back to school or retire.

That means that the rate often stops declining when jobs are scarcest because people get discouraged. And as the economy improves, the jobless rate may rise as workers re-enter the job market.

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