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Unemployment rate in Hall County drops to 8 percent

Number in Gainesville has been falling steadily

POSTED: May 26, 2011 10:51 p.m.

As the arrival of summer sends college graduates and teens flowing into the local job market, Hall County's employment picture continues to brighten.

The state Department of Labor reported Thursday that the preliminary unadjusted unemployment rate in the metro Gainesville area fell to 8 percent in April, down five-tenths of a percentage point from a revised 8.5 percent in March.

It is the area's lowest unemployment rate since early 2009 when the worldwide recession began to drain jobs from the economy.

Tim Evans, vice president for economic development for the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, said he believes the job growth trend in the county will continue.

"Hiring is happening, and a lot of it is for full-time, year-round jobs," Evans said.

"Most of it is additional hiring, not just new industries coming in. It's coming from existing industries that are expanding. We're also seeing hiring across a lot of different skill sets for those in the job market looking for employment."

Evans credits the county's economic diversity for its ability to rebound from the recent downturn. Because Hall's jobs are balanced among manufacturing, retail, service and tourism, the area can weather a downturn better than communities that rely on one key industry.

"We have a lot of businesses and employment tied to health care, food processing, as well as education, with three outstanding colleges," Evans said. "And we have one of the highest concentrations of manufacturing jobs and processing than any community per capita in Georgia. We have some 260 manufacturers here that make up about 30 percent of our workforce. It's not concentrated in any one sector but spread out across the board."

And the increase in employment at the top of the job ladder should help free up more summer jobs for teens.

"A lot of the seasonal summer employment that happens at places like Lake Lanier Islands, those have traditionally gone to teenagers in the past," Evans said. "In the last couple of years, they've found tough competition from people who needed any job, and (teens) were squeezed out of the job market.

"As people are hired back into jobs more appropriate for their skill levels, we'll see less underemployment for teens."

The jobless rate in metro Gainesville in April 2010 was 8.7 percent. It topped out at 10.1 percent in February 2010 but has been falling steadily in recent months.

The jobless rate in the Georgia Mountains region fell to 8.5 percent from an adjusted 8.9 percent in March.

State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said the preliminary unadjusted unemployment rates in most Georgia's metropolitan areas were lower.

The lowest regional rate, 7.1 percent, was recorded in metro Athens; the highest, 11.5 percent, was in Dublin in Southeast Georgia.

In metro Atlanta, unemployment decreased to 9.7 percent in April, down from a revised 9.8 percent. Butler says 16,400 jobs were added in metro Atlanta in April.

The rated decreased because there were fewer layoffs in manufacturing industries and some job seekers left the labor force, the department reported.

Georgia's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for April was 9.9 percent, down one-tenth of a percentage point, from a revised 10 percent in March.

The state's jobless rate was 10.1 percent in April a year ago. The last time the state's rate was below 10 percent was in June 2009, when it was 9.8 percent.

April marked the 43rd consecutive month that Georgia has exceeded the national unemployment rate, which is currently 9 percent. But, the last time the Georgia rate dropped over the month, while the U.S. rate increased, was April of last year.

At that time, the state rate declined one-tenth of a percentage point to 10.1 percent, while the national rate rose one-tenth percent to 9.8 percent.

Local area unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted. Georgia labor market data are available here.



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