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Ga. jobless rate reaches 3-year low
Labor officials: Better days ahead with new plants in the works
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News of Georgia’s unemployment rate’s decline below 9 percent for the first time in more than three years was welcomed in Hall County.

“Being in the business of creating jobs, I’m thrilled to see those figures,” said Kit Dunlap, president and CEO of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a great sign for business.”

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate also declined for the ninth consecutive month, state labor officials said Thursday, coming in at 8.9 percent for April, Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said. The March rate was 9 percent.

The state’s unemployment rate was 9.8 percent in April a year ago.

“We now have the lowest unemployment rate, the fewest unemployed workers, and the most jobs in Georgia in more than three years,” Butler said in a news release. “Our job market continues to improve at a modest and steady rate.”

Northeast Georgia has seen recent announcements of industrial plants — Carter’s Inc. in Braselton, Baxter International in Covington and Caterpillar in Athens — all planning to employ large numbers of residents. Yet their impact on the unemployment rate has been limited so far, labor officials say.

“Until they actually start hiring, it wouldn’t have any impact,” Labor Department director of communications Sam Hall said.

But Dunlap said ripple effects of those planned plants already were being felt.

“What’s good for one area of Georgia is good for all of Georgia,” she said.

“Particularly with Caterpillar in Athens and Oconee, we’re already seeing some suppliers and future projects (developing).”

“All of that’s going to make a stronger economy in Georgia,” Hall said.

The last time Georgia’s jobless rate was below 9 percent was in February 2009, when it was also 8.9 percent.

Although the rate remains higher than the national average, Hall said, “overall, it’s a pretty good report. It’s certainly something we’re pleased with.”

There were 423,495 unemployed workers in Georgia in April, the fewest since January 2009, when there were 409,841.

The rate declined as the number of new jobs grew by 31,900, to 3,926,000, the highest number of jobs in Georgia since January of 2009.

The number of initial claims in April rose by 4,816, or 11.3 percent, to 47,492. Most of the increase in claims came in manufacturing, trade, and administrative and support services. While initial claims increased over the month, the number declined by 6,845, or 12.6 percent, from April 2011.

Industries showing growth included trade and transportation; leisure and hospitality; professional and business services; construction; and education and health care.

While the state gained jobs overall, state and local governments shed 3,300 jobs, state labor officials said.

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