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Thursday, March 18, 2010 - 4:07am

Ga. Jobless Rate A New Record High

Unemployment in Georgia has hit a new record high.

Fresh numbers from state labor officials show a rate of 10.5 percent for February -- up from the 10.4 percent reported for January.

It’s now been 29 consecutive months that Georgia’s jobless mark stands ahead of the national rate, which is 9.7. The length of time Georgians are taking jobless benefits is also increasing—an average 16 weeks. That’s about four weeks longer than a year ago.

But state Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond points out some good news. There was a 30 percent decrease in first-time claims filed for jobless benefits from January to last month -- down by nearly 30,000 filings.

“We saw an improvement year-over-year, and we saw an improvement month-over-month. So what this really suggests is some stabilization in the job market.”

And jobs are being added in some parts of the state. Warner Robins gained 300 in the past year. In middle Georgia, a planned privately-run prison expects to bring more than 200 jobs to Baldwin County.

And Columbus mayor Jim Wetherington knows his city and region remains fortunate:

"With the expansion at Ft. Benning—$3 billion going on. Kia, and NCR - with upwards of 900 new jobs. There’s just a lot of good things happening in our city right now.”

While over-the-year job losses continue to be seen in areas like manufacturing and construction, the state did add 5,700 education and health services jobs in the past year.

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