Good news today for Powder Springs and Lithia Springs: Employment ended 2011 on the rise in Cobb and Douglas counties even though the unemployment rate crept higher in December in Cobb and was flat in Douglas.
About 7,400 more Cobb residents were working at the end of December than had jobs in December 2010, according to preliminary figures the state Department of Labor reported today. A total of 340,810 people in the county ended 2011 employed, while 31,464 people 16 and older were seeking jobs.
That means 305 more people were working in December than in November even though the county’s jobless rate rose to 8.5 percent from because the workforce grew.
But the more important comparison is to a year ago, and the county’s rate fell almost a full point from 9.4 percent in December 2010.
In Douglas County, about 1.260 more residents were employed at the end of 2011 than at the end of 2010. The 58,165 employed workers in December represented an increase of 52 from November.
The unemployment rate in Douglas was 10.2 percent in December, the same as in November but down sharply from 11.4 percent a year earlier.
The local figures are not seasonally adjusted, so the month-to-month changes don’t always reflect the health of the local economy. It’s typical for construction employment to fall as winter arrives, and workers hired for holiday retail jobs often are let go after Christmas.
For metro Atlanta, covering 28 counties including Cobb and Douglas, the unemployment rate increased to 9.4 percent in December from 9.2 percent in November because of layoffs in construction, manufacturing, retail trade, administrative and support services, and accommodations and food services, the Labor Department said.
In the smaller, 10-county area covered by the Atlanta Regional Commission—Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale counties—the pattern was the same: 9.3 percent unemployment in December, up from 9.1 percent in November and down from 10.1 percent in December 2010.
The seasonally adjusted statewide rate in December was 9.7 percent, down from 9.8 percent in November and 10.4 percent in December 2010. Georgia’s jobless rate remains above the seasonally adjusted national unemployment rate, which was 8.5 percent in December, down from 8.7 percent in November and 9.4 percent in December 2010.
“The rate declined because 11,500 Georgians went back to work in December,” state Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said in a news release. “Plus, we saw some increases in employment in areas that have been especially hard hit.”
The number of long-term unemployed people statewide decreased 3,800 in December to 245,100, the Labor Department said.
That improvement reflected a trend the department reported Wednesday: Georgians typically spend a month less on state unemployment benefits than the average American.
As of December, the average Georgian on state unemployment insurance stopped benefits after 13.3 weeks. Nationally, the average was 17.4 weeks. Only North Dakotans get off state benefits sooner than Georgians.
Georgia’s unemployed can stay on state benefits for 26 weeks before federal benefits begin.
“When people think of a Labor Department, traditionally they think of the unemployment office,” Butler said. “In Georgia, we are trying to stop that. This is an employment office. We strive for that designation.”
The state Labor Department held a live online chat about surviving layoffs that appeared on Patches across Georgia on Wednesday, and Butler is participating in a panel discussion today at on training to prepare the workforce of the future.
You can follow that discussion live on Powder Springs-Lithia Springs Patch at 11:30 a.m.