The Georgia Department of Labor announced Thursday that 96,306 laid-off workers filed first-time claims for state unemployment insurance benefits in March, an increase of 126.3 percent from March 2008.
In a year-over-year comparison, Gainesville had the highest percentage of increase in claims with 2,044 this year, compared with 585 in March 2008, a 249 percent increase.
Other metro areas with high percentages were Rome, up 218 percent; and Brunswick, up 185 percent. The areas with the smallest increase in claims are Valdosta, up 44.6 percent; Hinesville, up 70.4 percent; and Albany, up 85.2 percent.
The rate of unemployment claims suggest that the state’s record-high 9.3 percent unemployment rate won’t be going down anytime soon, and could move to double-digits.
The national average is 8.5 percent.
"Were still in a very soft job market and the short-term prospects are not looking good," state Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond said Thursday.
Most of the state initial claims were filed by laid-off workers in manufacturing, trade, construction and administrative and support services. The number of jobless workers receiving unemployment insurance benefits rose 133 percent over the year, from 74,294 in March of 2008 to 172,947 in March of 2009.
State officials say that more than half of Georgia’s 159 counties are already seeing double-digit unemployment.
Thurmond said Thursday that there was one glimmer of hope on the horizon. For the first days of April, Thurmond said there had been a dip in the number of Georgians filing unemployment claims.
Thurmond said it’s too soon to say whether that will hold for the month.
"But we’re looking for any hopeful sign at the point," he said.