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Improvement seen in area jobless rates

CONYERS -- Georgia's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 9.9 percent in November, although jobless rates in Rockdale and Newton counties remain among the highest in the state.

Although rates are relatively high in Rockdale and Newton, November's preliminary numbers showed some improvement in the labor market. Newton's preliminary unemployment rate in November was 11.3 percent, down from October's revised rate of 12.2 percent. Rockdale's preliminary November rate was 10.5 percent, down from the revised October number of 11.2 percent. Newton has an estimated labor force of 46,580, meaning that 5,282 residents were out of work in November. Rockdale's estimated work force is 39,817, with 4,168 unemployed in November.

Newton and Rockdale are among the 81 counties in the state that have jobless rates at 10 percent or greater. The county with the highest unemployment rate in November was Chattahoochee County in southwest Georgia, with a rate of 17.3 percent. Banks County in northeast Georgia had the lowest rate, at 6.3 percent.

According to Corey Smith, statistical program operations chief for the Labor Department, Newton's November rate is the lowest it has been since it was also 11.3 percent in May 2010.

"The over-the-month rate change is very refreshing and the largest one-month decrease since March 2010 when the rate changed from 12.8 percent in February to 11.9 percent in March," Smith wrote in an email response to inquiries by the Citizen. "The county's November 2011 rate, however, is still higher than that of other metro counties and the metro area as a whole due partly to increased jobless claim filings in industries, including manufacturing, administrative and support services, and accommodation and food services," Smith wrote.

Rockdale's unemployment rate is higher than many other counties in the metro area, Smith wrote, and higher than the 9.2 percent rate in the Atlanta metropolitan statistical area.

"At 10.5 percent, the November rate is the lowest in the county since it was 10.1 percent in May 2009," according to Smith, "and though the over-the-month change is encouraging, the level of unemployment in Rockdale County is due in part to increased filings for jobless benefits in the construction, manufacturing and administrative and support services industries."

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said the state's new jobless rate fell from 10.2 percent in October, which is the largest one-month decline since 1977.

Georgia's 9.9 percent rate compares to 10.4 percent in November a year ago.

Officials said the state's unemployment rate declined because of an increase of 22,400 jobs. In addition to retail trade, the state also saw growth in financial and business services and education and health care.

The preliminary Northeast Georgia region unemployment rate fell to 8.9 percent in November, down six-tenths of a percent from 9.5 percent in October. According to the Department of Labor, the jobless rate in the area in November a year ago was 9.8 percent.

The Northeast Georgia region includes Barrow, Clarke, Elbert, Greene, Jackson, Jasper, Madison, Morgan, Newton, Oconee, Oglethorpe and Walton counties.

Rockdale County is part of the Atlanta Regional Commission, which also includes Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, and Henry counties. The jobless rate in the Atlanta Regional Commission was 9.1 percent in November.