Metro Atlanta’s jobless rate falls to 7.9 percent in March

Employers in metro Atlanta increased hiring and laid off fewer workers in March, driving down the unemployment rate to 7.9 percent from 8.3 percent in February, the state labor department said Thursday.

A year ago, metro Atlanta’s jobless rate was 8.9 percent.

The number of jobs in metro Atlanta increased by 13,100 from February to March, reaching a total of 2,381,200. Most of the growth came in leisure and hospitality — 5,900 jobs; administrative and support services — 4,600; and professional and business services — 4,200. The number of government jobs declined by 1,400.

Over the past year, metro Atlanta added 55,200 jobs, an increase of 2.4 percent from March 2012. Most of the growth was in professional and business services — 19,500; administrative and support services — 11,900; leisure and hospitality — 11,700; and trade, transportation and warehousing — 11,000.

The number of new layoffs — represented by initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits — fell by 1,944 from February, dropping to total of 17,222 in March. The decreases came mostly in construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation, warehousing, administrative and support services, and accommodations and food services.

For the core metro counties, Cobb and Gwinnett tied for the lowest jobless rate — 7.1 percent. DeKalb was next with 8.2 percent, followed by Fulton (8.5 percent) and Clayton (9.9 percent).

Metro Athens had the state’s lowest area jobless rate at 5.9 percent, while the Heart of Georgia-Altamaha region had the highest at 10.4 percent.

Last week, the labor department said Georgia’s unemployment rate fell to 8.4 percent in March from 8.6 percent in February. The rate was 9.1 percent a year ago.

Despite the improvements, the jobless rates in Georgia and metro Atlanta continue to trail the national rate, currently 7.6 percent.

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