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Georgians scramble for work
Newton, Rockdale beat Ga. unemployment rate

COVINGTON - As the state observed Labor Day on Monday, nearly half a million Georgians are looking for work, according to the Georgia Department of Labor.

The state unemployment rate rose to 10.3 percent in July. Georgia's unemployment rate remained above the national rate of 9.4 percent for the 21st consecutive month.

"These jobless workers could compromise a mythical unemployment line that stretches from Dalton to Atlanta, through Macon, down to Valdosta," State Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond said in a press release.

Both Newton and Rockdale counties have unemployment rates higher than the state.

In Newton County, 12.9 percent of the work force is unemployed, compared to 8.3 percent in July 2008.

Rockdale County's unemployment rate is 11.7, compared to 7.4 percent in July 2008.

Across the state, job losses in construction, manufacturing and other male-dominated industries have resulted in historically high levels of unemployment among Georgia males, according to the Labor Department.

From December 2007, the official start of the recession, through May 2009, the number of men drawing state unemployment benefits increased from 34,136 to 88,612, or 160 percent. In May, jobless men constituted 57.6 percent of the 153,930 Georgians receiving unemployment insurance benefits.

In July, 493,748 unemployed Georgians were looking for work, an increase of 63.6 percent from July 2008, the Labor Department reported. Of that number, 163,839, or 33.2 percent, received state unemployment insurance benefits and 140,000 received federally-funded extended benefits.

The total number of unemployment insurance claims is 303,839, representing 62 percent of unemployed Georgians.

The average length of time that jobless Georgians drew unemployment insurance benefits increased from 11.5 weeks in July 2008 to 13.4 weeks in July 2009.

"The July jobless claims report presents a classic good news/bad news scenario," Thurmond said. "Fewer Georgians are being laid off, but a rising number of laid off workers are remaining unemployed for longer periods of time."

The number of payroll jobs in July decreased by 199,400, or 4 percent, from July 2008. Losses came in manufacturing, trade, transportation and warehousing, professional and business services, including temporary employment agencies and construction. Health care and private educational services showed a combined increase of 10,400 jobs and local and state governmental education added 9,200 jobs.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.