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Newton, Rockdale end 2011 with higher unemployment rates than state

COVINGTON - Newton County ended 2011 with an unemployment rate of 11.7 percent, according to the Georgia Department of Labor. Rockdale County fared slightly better with a rate of 10.6 percent.

Both counties had higher rates than the state's rate of 9.4 percent. That rate is not adjusted to account for seasonal workers.

Newton's labor force for the month of December totaled 46,823, with 5,468 of those unemployed, according to data released Thursday by the Department of Labor. The unemployment rate was slightly higher than the month before, when it was reported at 11.3 percent, and slightly lower than a year ago, when it was 11.9 percent.

Rockdale's rate showed improvement from a year ago, dropping more than 1 percent, from 11.9 to 10.6. The county's unemployment rate barely budged from November's rate of 10.5 percent.

Georgia's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined in December to 9.7 percent, for the third straight month. According to the Department of Labor, 11,500 Georgians went back to work in December. Statewide, there were 600 new construction jobs and 400 new manufacturing jobs. There were also job gains in information services and trade and transportation.

The Department of Labor also reported that Georgia has the lowest duration in the South for length of time on unemployment insurance benefits, and the second lowest in the nation, behind North Dakota.

As of December 2011, the average Georgian on state unemployment insurance stopped benefits after 13.3 weeks. Nationally, the average unemployed American stayed on state benefits for 17.4 weeks.

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler attributed this to the Department of Labor's focus on job training and re-employment.

"When people think of a labor department, traditionally they think of the 'unemployment office,'" Butler said. "In Georgia, we are trying to stop that. This is an 'employment office.' We strive for that designation."

In Georgia, the unemployed can stay on state benefits for 26 weeks before federal benefits start.