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Hall job losses are few

Diverse economy helps county weather state’s downturn

POSTED: August 20, 2008 5:01 a.m.
TOM REED/The Times

Twanna Williams helps Asa C. Brown look over job openings Friday at the Georgia Department of Labor office on Atlanta Highway. Gainesville had the lowest number of jobs lost according to the newest unemployment figures released by the state.

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While the state is facing its highest unemployment numbers in more than a decade, the Gainesville Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Hall County, had the fewest job losses in July, according to figures from the Georgia Department of Labor.

Gainesville’s labor force went from 77,500 to 77,400, a decrease of 0.1 percent. The Athens area had the second lowest with a loss of 200 jobs, bringing its labor force to 83,500.

While the news is good, the area has not been without layoffs.

Jeld-Wen, a Klamath Falls, Ore., maker of doors and windows, announced Aug. 5 that it would end manufacturing operations at its plant in Gainesville. The decision will result in the laying off of 40 workers by the end of the month.

Also in July, 60 employees lost jobs in the merger of Gainesville Bank & Trust and SunTrust.

However, labor commissioner Michael Thurmond said that Hall County has an advantage over other areas of the state.

"The Gainesville economy continues to be strong because you are so diversified with medical jobs, finance and manufacturing and less reliance on textiles," Thurmond said during a visit here this month.

"Residential construction is really hard hit because of the real estate issues, and we’ve overbuilt in many parts of the state," he said.

Thurmond’s department has a state-of-the-art career center on Atlanta Highway to assist job seekers. Like other labor department centers, it has a steady stream of visitors.

"From Blue Ridge to Atlanta, from Macon to
Valdosta, thousands of unemployed Georgians are pouring into our career centers," Thurmond said. "The Georgia Department of Labor is committed to doing everything possible to assist them during these difficult economic times."

The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 6.2 percent in July, up 0.6 percent from 5.6 percent in June. The July rate was the highest recorded since March 1993.

The current adjusted state rate, which is 0.5 percent higher than the U.S. seasonally adjusted rate of 5.7 percent, continued to top the national rate for the sixth straight month. At present, 304,536 unemployed Georgians are looking for work.

Thurmond said there are challenges for the near term.

"Based on what I’m hearing from economists, both state and national, we could be in this trough for the next 12 to 18 months," Thurmond said. "I think unemployment will continue to rise throughout the remainder of ’08, and I’m hopeful that by the third or fourth quarter of ’09 we will begin to see it level off."

The areas with the largest percentage drops in work force were Augusta and Warner Robins. Augusta was down 3,800 jobs, or 1.7 percent, from 218,800 to 215,000 workers. Warner Robins lost 1,000 jobs, or 1.7 percent, from 59,300 to 58,300 workers.



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