Newton jobless rate at 13.5 percent

COVINGTON -- Newton County started 2010 with an increased unemployment rate of 13.5 percent, the 33rd-highest rate in the state out of 159 counties.

Newton County's unemployment rate rose from 12.6 percent in December to 13.5 percent in January. The total labor force was 46,719, with 6,292 unemployed, according to data from the Georgia Department of Labor.

Newton's unemployment rate is 2.5 percent above the state rate of 10.7 percent. Newton has consistently been above the state rate.

"Unemployment rates are calculated by place of residence -- even though a significant number of people may commute out of a county to work, it is possible that the local industry mix can have an effect on a county's unemployment rate," said Ralph Towler, labor market analyst with the Georgia Department of Labor's Office of Workforce Information and Analysis. "Two of the industries that have been most adversely affected during the recent recession are construction and manufacturing."

In Newton County, manufacturing accounts for 22.3 percent of jobs, but only 9.4 percent of jobs statewide, Towler said. Newton County also has a larger than average share of construction employment, at 6 percent, versus the state, at 4.4 percent.

Despite all this, Newton doesn't fare the worst among Georgia counties. Jenkins County's unemployment rate for January was 21.8 percent, while Hancock's was 23.5 percent.

The Department of Labor reported this week that the preliminary unadjusted unemployment rate in the Northeast Georgia area rose to 10.7 percent in January, up nine-tenths of one percentage point from a revised 9.8 percent in December. Meanwhile, the number of unemployed workers in the area increased to 30,648, up 2,621 from 28,027 in December.

January marks the 28th consecutive month that Georgia has exceeded the national unemployment rate.