Pace of layoffs slows in Georgia

May saw 10,000 fewer new claims than April.Initial unemployment filings topped 75,000 last month, though.

The bad news continues, but as one Wall Street wag put it: Less bad is the new good.

Layoffs continue in Georgia, but the pace has been slowing over the past several months, according to state Department of Labor data released on Thursday.

Some less-bad news: More than 75,400 Georgians filed new jobless claims last month, compared with 84,346 in April.

Year-to-year comparisons are generally considered key to reading trends. While May's new claims were about 69 percent higher than in May last year, that news is also less-bad.

"The over-the-year increases in initial claims have declined from the triple-digits we experienced earlier in the year," said Michael Thurmond, state labor commissioner. From April to May, initial claims were down in most of the state's metro areas.

Over the year, all 14 metros have seen increases. The worst came in Gainesville, a 136 percent jump in claims; Brunswick, up 133 percent, and Augusta, up 116 percent from a year ago.

In metro Atlanta, 33,078 people filed claims last month, a 72 percent increase from last year.

An estimated 601,000 Americans filed claims for jobless benefits last week, down from four straight weeks above 625,000, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

A drop in new claims is not evidence of improvement in the job market. Evidence of that is in the number of continuing claims, which rose to 6.8 million.

That number is a sign that people are having a lot of trouble finding jobs.

It is also a record high number of people—- but not a record proportion of the workers covered. Of all the people covered by unemployment law, 5.1 percent are now getting benefits. That's the largest percentage since 1982, when 5.4 percent received benefits. Even worse was in 1975, when 7.0 percent of those covered were getting checks.

Nationally, the jobless rate jumped to 9.4 percent last month. The state is slated to report its May unemployment rate next week.