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Unemployment claims continue to climb
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Zell speaks

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As jobless rates and unemployment claims climb each month, state labor officials are searching for a turnaround.

The Georgia Department of Labor said 88,756 laid-off workers filed first-time claims for state unemployment insurance benefits in June, an increase of 94.8 percent from June 2008.

The areas with the highest percentage of increase in claims from June 2008 to June 2009 were Rome, up 181 percent; Gainesville, up 172.8 percent; and Athens, up 163.2 percent.

In June, Gainesville reported 1,757 new claims for unemployment, an increase of 269 from May and 1,113 from June last year.

"Obviously the reason is because there is an increase in the number of people being laid off. Employers are continuing to lay off and have not been rehiring from layoffs in the past," said Sam Hall, director of communications for the Georgia Department of Labor. "We’re hopeful the recession will turn around sooner rather than later, but we don’t expect it to do so immediately."

Also in June, Georgia’s jobless rate hit its highest ever recorded — 10.1 percent. The rate was up 4 percentage points from 6.1 percent at this time last year and remained above the national rate of 9.5 percent for the 20th consecutive month.

About 483,400 unemployed Georgians were looking for work, an increase of 65 percent from June 2008.

"The claims in Gainesville were filed across the board but particularly in manufacturing, trade, administrative and support services and construction," Hall said. "We saw the same trend across the state as well."

The Center of Innovation for Manufacturing, housed at Lanier Technical College in Oakwood, provides statewide industry expertise to accelerate growth in the state’s manufacturing sector. Georgia manufacturers saw a slight decrease in growth in May manufacturing activities after five consecutive months of increase, the center reported in early July.

"The decrease ... can be attributed to a decrease in new orders and production," according to the release.

CBC Construction in Gainesville has seen drastic changes due to the economy.

"Around this time last year, we had 18 employees. Now we have three," said co-owner Barbara Cheeley.

"Business is slow but gradually picking up. Commercial has started picking up again, but residential is still down."

Employees in the company went through the 10-hour OSHA construction industry training and "Drugs Don’t Work" workplace program to improve skills and prepare themselves.

"We heard eventually everyone in the state will have to be trained in the drug-free program, so we’re getting started," she said. "We want to be ahead."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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