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Unemployment claims double in Hall County
Economist says area still in good shape
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The number of unemployment claims in August more than doubled in Hall County from the same month a year ago. The Georgia Department of Labor released figures Thursday showing 945 people filed a first-time claim for unemployment insurance in August, compared with 471 in August 2007.

The Gainesville metropolitan statistical area had the highest percentage increase in new claims in August, according to the report.

The statewide numbers from July to August revealed the initial claims declined to 59,090, a drop of 75 or one-tenth of one percent.

"The August increase is the largest over-the-year increase in initial claims since October of 2001 when we began experiencing significant layoffs following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks," said state Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond.

During the past year, layoffs have come across the board in manufacturing, construction, trade and services. And the total number of individuals receiving unemployment insurance benefits was up 39 percent over the year, from 57,704 in August 2007 to 80,150 in August 2008.

Roger Tutterow, a Mercer University economist, said the numbers should be taken in stride.

"When you talk about the number of claims doubling, that’s actually a small portion of the work force," Tutterow said. "In July, Gainesville had an unemployment rate of 5.4 percent, that means that 95 percent of the work force is employed."

The economist said that job creation is stalling as a result of the current economic slowdown.

"At the national and state level, we are down in terms of nonfarm payrolls," he said. "So it’s not surprising that we’ve seen the initial claims rise over the past year."

Tutterow said Gainesville continues to fare better than the other areas.

"The Gainesville MSA is doing a little better than the state or the nation," he said. "You’re talking about 5,000 unemployed people out of a labor force of nearly 94,000."

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