Good news before Christmas on the area's jobs picture: The preliminary unemployment rate in metro Gainesville fell to 7.7 percent in November, down six-tenths of a percentage point from 8.3 percent in October.
The jobless rate in metro Gainesville in November a year ago was 9.2 percent.
Kit Dunlap, president of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, said there are a number of factors in play for the county's impressive performance.
"Our job base is great," she said. "We have a diverse economy and so many are commuting in here for retail, health care and legal services."
And that's not even mentioning manufacturing jobs.
According to the Georgia Department of Labor, the unemployment rate in Gainesville declined because the number of jobs increased by 400. Most of the growth was in the private service-related industries, such as trade, transportation and warehousing.
Gainesville is outpacing the state average for unemployment, which is 9.3 percent. That's without seasonal adjustment of rates.
"I think things are improving," said Danny Dunagan, Gainesville's mayor pro-tem and owner of local dry cleaning stores.
Dunagan said that his own business seems to be doing better and he is seeing more hiring signs as he drives local streets.
Still, Dunagan said he's "cautiously optimistic" about the future given that improving job numbers could be a sign of seasonal hiring.
Dunlap shares that sentiment. Still, she said, businesses in the area are "encouraged" by the direction of the area's economy with new businesses opening.
There are lingering challenges, though.
"Yes, I'm aware of the housing situation and that some businesses are closing their doors. But overall, we feel good," she said. "I look forward to a prosperous 2012."
The jobless rate is the area's lowest since November 2008, when the economic recession began.
Unemployment topped 8 percent that December and continued to rise steadily over the next two years.
Georgia's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate had its largest one-month decline since 1977, falling to 9.9 percent from 10.2 percent in October. The jobless rate was 10.4 percent in November a year ago.
The state rate dropped because of an increase of 22,400 jobs. In addition to retail trade, growth also came in financial and business services and education and health care.
The unemployment rate in the Georgia Mountains area decreased to 8 percent in November, down six-tenths of a percentage point from 8.6 percent in October.
The jobless rate in the Georgia Mountains area in November a year ago was 9.3 percent.
Metro Athens had the lowest metropolitan area rate at 6.9 percent, while metro Dalton had the highest at 11.8 percent.