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Unemployment rate steadies in Gainesville
Labor chief sees positive signs despite states slight increase
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The unemployment rate in the metro Gainesville area remained unchanged at 8.6 percent from March to April, the Georgia Department of Labor reported Thursday.

The jobless rate in the Northeast Georgia mountains area dropped during that period from 9.3 percent to 9 percent.

Georgia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 9.3 percent in April, up slightly from a revised 9.2 percent in March and February.

The state’s April jobless rate was up 3.5 percentage points from 5.8 percent at this same time last year. Georgia’s unemployment rate remained above the national rate of 8.9 percent for the 18th consecutive month.

But unemployment was down in southeast, north and northeast parts of the state, and in several metro areas including Warner Robins, Hinesville, Augusta and Dalton.

State Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond greeted the data with cautious optimism.

"That’s not to say that the recession is over or that it will end any time soon," he said. "But clearly the recent unemployment statistics are beginning to show some positive signs."

Some of the biggest drops came in long-suffering areas of the state. Unemployment dropped from 9.4 percent to 8.7 percent in April in the Central Savannah River area, which includes Hancock County, the poorest in the state, according to Georgia Department of Community Affairs data.

Job loss also shrank in Dalton, the self-proclaimed "Carpet Capital of the World," where shifts in the carpet manufacturing industry contributed to 13.6 percent unemployment in March.

The rate sank to 12.8 percent last month. Initial insurance claims dropped to 3,568 from 5,919 in March. "Fewer people are losing their jobs, or are losing jobs at a more moderate rate," Thurmond said.

Atlanta’s unemployment rate remained steady at 9.1 percent. The rate is at 6.8 percent in the Athens area.

A total of 446,560 Georgians are looking for work, an increase of 60 percent from April 2008. Of those, 167,981, or 37.6 percent, are receiving unemployment insurance benefits.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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