Georgia jobless rate hits lowest level since early '09

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia's unemployment rate has dropped to 8.6 percent, its lowest level in the past four years, state labor officials reported.

Georgia's seasonally adjusted jobless rate for February was the lowest since January 2009, down from 8.7 percent in January, authorities said.

The Georgia Department of Labor announced the February numbers early Thursday.

"The unemployment rate is the lowest it's been in more than four years, and I give the credit to Georgia employers who continue to create jobs and lay off fewer workers," said Mark Butler, the state labor commissioner.

"In fact, there were fewer workers laid-off and filing first-time claims for unemployment insurance in February than since before the beginning for the Great Recession in 2007," Butler said.

The number of jobs in metro Atlanta increased by 2.5 percent in the past year, from 2.31 million in February 2012 to 2.37 million last month, figures from the labor department show.

In metro Savannah, jobs increased from 153,500 to 157,100 during the same period -- a 2.4 percent change.

Metro areas such as Athens, Augusta, Brunswick, Macon, Gainesville, and Rome also showed job gains during the past year.

The Columbus, Dalton and Warner Robins areas experienced slight declines in job numbers over the past year.

Statewide, there were 3.98 million jobs in February, an increase of 19,300 from 3.96 million in January, labor officials said.

Most of the recent job growth came in professional and business services; education and health care; and information services, officials said.

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