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The line for jobs is getting longer

Georgia unemployment rate rises to 7.5 percent, highest in 25 years

POSTED: December 26, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Tom Reed/The Times

Rebecca Montgomery and her husband, Daniel, look over unemployment forms Thursday at the Georgia Department of Labor Office on Atlanta Highway in Gainesville while others wait in line for information.

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Evelyn Stafford’s job with a Christian ministry in Atlanta was cut in July 2007.

Before that, she spent an extensive career as an executive assistant, including a 15-year stint at the highest levels of the Coca-Cola Co., where she accepted a partial job buyout offer in 2000.

Since the loss of her job in 2007, she has engaged in job networking and searched through Internet sites to find work.

The only result has been a series of temporary jobs, the latest one ending this week.

On the advice of a networking group, she did not file for unemployment insurance benefits when her job ended last year.

And Thursday, she was told by the Georgia Department of Labor that she is not eligible for state unemployment assistance.

"I looked for a job on the Internet and kept thinking I would get a job, but it didn’t happen," Stafford said. "I didn’t come and file for unemployment, still hopeful that I was going to get a job. Then, after applying for 60 or 70 jobs online, I didn’t get a single response."
Stafford then signed up with six or seven temporary agencies, and only one was able to provide a placement. The last one ended Monday.

Last year, she took the advice of a networking group and didn’t seek unemployment assistance.

"They said it looks like you’re a go-getter if you’re out actively seeking employment, going to networking meetings and seeking temporary jobs. The idea is that you would get hired over someone who sat back and took unemployment," she said.

She said she doesn’t necessarily regret the decision.

"I think that somehow our system is flawed, but I don’t know how to fix it," Stafford said.

Stafford’s visit to the Gainesville labor office on Thursday came on the day the department announced the state’s highest unemployment levels in 25 years.

The jobless rate in November was 7.5 percent, up 0.6 percent from October and 3 percent from the same time a year ago.

The department said the Metro Gainesville area, which includes all of Hall County, has lost 700 jobs in the past 12 months. The area’s work force has fallen to 77,100, compared to 77,800 in November 2007.

The Dalton area has lost the highest percentage of jobs at 4.2 percent. The work force there has declined by 3,300. Dalton is home to much of the state’s carpet industry, which is feeling the effects of the current housing slump.

"Job losses are accelerating throughout most of the state’s economic sectors, with the exception of health care, education and the federal government," State Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond said. "Although it may be difficult to find a job in this environment, it is not impossible."

Georgia’s jobless rate has been running above the national rate — currently 6.7 percent — for the past several months.
The Labor Department says 365,244 Georgians are looking for work. The last time Georgia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was at this level was in 1983, when the rate was also 7.5 percent.
The agency says over the past year, the number of payroll jobs decreased 2.3 percent, including a 2.7 percent decline in metro Atlanta. Athens showed the least decline of any metropolitan area with 0.1 percent.

The labor office on Atlanta Highway in Gainesville was busy, but local manager Mark Winters said Thursday was not as busy as previous days.

The center offers computer access to look for jobs and has information about job search, career planning, and education and training opportunities.

People who are collecting unemployment insurance must be actively seeking work or enrolled as a full-time student.

Thurmond called on Georgians to consider upgrading their skills and employability by enrolling at one of the state’s two-year colleges and technical colleges.



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