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State jobless rate matches record high of 10.3%
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Georgia’s unemployment rate now matches its all-time high, the state’s Department of Labor reported Thursday.

Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond says new figures put the state’s unemployment rate at 10.3 percent, matching the high set last July.

The jobless rate was up two-tenths of a percentage point from a revised 10.1 percent in November.

Thurmond says that since the recession began in December 2007, Georgia’s work force has shrunk by 121,257, or 2.5 percent, from 4,823,467 to 4,702,210.

Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce President Kit Dunlap said she was not shocked to hear of the job losses.

“It’s really not much different than it has been,” Dunlap said. “It’s not a surprise with the economy like it is.”

In the Gainesville area, there were 3,300 fewer jobs in December 2009 than the previous December.

But Dunlap said there is still positive news in the business community.

“We do see small businesses coming to the community and lots of big businesses looking,” she said. “I’m encouraged.”

Among the states, California saw the largest increase in jobless claims with 16,160. Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania and Georgia saw the next largest increases. The state data lags the initial claims data by a week.

Oregon saw the biggest drop in claims, of 5,784, followed by Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan and Massachusetts.

Douglas Bachtel, a professor of housing and consumer economics at the University of Georgia, said the state’s high unemployment rate is reflective of its work force.

“We have historically low educational attainment levels and high poverty levels,” Bachtel said. “That means that some of those workers lack education and skills, so as a result they’re the last hired and the first fired.”

Once they are unemployed, it’s more difficult to for them to find new work because they don’t have marketable skills or education.
“That old historic high poverty level really hurts us in bad economic times in Georgia,” Bachtel said.

Bachtel said the jobless rate is likely especially hard for Hall County’s large Hispanic population.

“Many times the jobs they work in are construction and landscaping and agriculture and the service industry,” Bachtel said. “All of those industries have been hit hard by this recession.”

Bachtel said despite Georgia’s diversified economy, it will likely take a strong external force to kick start the economy and end the recession.

“It’ll take a while to get out of it,” Bachtel said. “It doesn’t happen overnight.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report