Unemployment rate: Counties' jobless rate up

COVINGTON — The unemployment rate in Newton and Rockdale counties remains higher than the state average.

The Georgia Department of Labor reports that Newton County closed 2009 with an unemployment rate of 12.9 percent, while Rockdale's unemployment rate at the end of the year was 11.9 percent. The state unemployment rate is 10 percent.

Newton County's labor force numbers 46,157, with 5,935 unemployed. The 12.9 percent rate is up slightly from 12.3 percent in November and is nearly 3 percent higher than it was at the end of 2008.

Of Rockdale County's work force of 39,817, the Georgia Department of Labor reports that at the end of the year, 4,754 — or 11.9 percent — were unemployed. Rockdale's unemployment rate also increased slightly from 11.5 percent in November and more than 3 percent from December 2008.

Recent statistics released by the labor department indicate that unemployment claims are down overall so far this year.

In January, 95,264 laid-off workers filed initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits, a decrease of 5.6 percent from December, the labor department reported. Compared to January 2009, initial unemployment claims have dropped by about 20 percent.

"Typically, initial claims rise in January, due to layoffs following increased hiring of temporary workers for the holiday shopping season," said State Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond. "However, this past November and December, retailers didn't hire as many seasonal workers as they usually do, resulting in fewer January layoffs."

Most of the first-time claims filed were in manufacturing, trade, construction and administrative and support services.

The average length of time jobless Georgia workers drew unemployment insurance benefits in January increased to 15.8 weeks, the longest duration on record. The duration in January 2009 was 11.5 weeks. The number of jobless workers receiving regular state unemployment benefits decreased from 183,829 in January 2009 to 149,537 in January 2010. Another 198,000 received federal extended unemployment compensation.