New jobless claims climbed again in June, evidence that —- despite the hopeful talk of "green shoots" during the spring —- layoffs are still a virtual epidemic through most of Georgia.
The state counted 88,756 people filing for unemployment benefits during the month, an 18 percent rise from May and a 95 percent leap from June of last year.
"This is troubling," said Michael Thurmond, state labor commissioner. "I was not expecting it."
That continued flow of people into the pool of job seekers —- coming without an accompanying surge of hiring —- hints strongly that a double-digit jobless rate is not far off.
The state's jobless rate in May was 9.7 percent. June's unemployment report for Georgia is due Thursday.
One month's data does not make a trend, but the claims report has taken a discouraging turn.
After a winter in which claims most months were more than double those of a year before, the pace of decline had seemed to be moderating: increases in April and May were less than 70 percent from a year earlier.
Atlanta, which represents the majority of the state's workers, has seen claims more than double in the past year. Several other areas have also seen their labor markets deteriorate: Rome claims were nearly three times the number of last year. Gainesville was up 173 percent, while claims in Athens —- an economy propelled by a huge university and several hospitals —- were up 163 percent.
A year ago, Athens claims were up 16 percent. Rome's were up 31 percent and Gainesville saw barely any increase.
Jobless claims are sometimes seen as a clue to the economy's direction since they typically bottom out before a recession starts and peak before the recession ends.
The only bright spot in the claims report was Dalton, which suffered more than a year of painful layoffs, yet in June saw claims actually decline 7 percent from May.
"That could be a faint, hopeful sign," Thurmond said. "Dalton led us into recession, is it possible, that they are leading us out?"
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