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Unemployment continues to decline in Newton, Rockdale

ATLANTA -- The unemployment rate for both Newton and Rockdale counties was 8.7 in April, an improvement from March and from one year ago, according to data released by the Georgia Department of Labor.

In Newton County, the rate has dropped 1.3 percent, from 10 percent, in April 2012. In March, unemployment was at 9.4 percent.

In Rockdale County, the rate was also 10 percent a year ago. It was at 9.1 percent in March.

Local rates are not adjusted to account for seasonal workers. Georgia's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined to 8.2 percent in April. The rate was down two-tenths of a percentage point from 8.4 percent in March and nine-tenths of a percentage point from 9.1 percent in April a year ago.

"While a two-tenths of a percent drop in one month is good to see, the most important part of that is that we saw Georgia employers create over 31,000 jobs," state Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said.

The addition of 31,200 new jobs in April pushed the overall number to 4,026,900, up by eight-tenths of a percentage point from 3,995,700 in March. Most of the job gains came in leisure and hospitality, 10,700; professional and business services, 9,400; trade and transportation, 7,500; education and health services, 2,600; and construction, 1,800.

"We're seeing a lot of positives in construction," Butler added. "When we look at over-the-year growth in construction jobs, we're seeing our best numbers since 2007, which predates the recession."

Butler said Georgia added 900 construction jobs between April 2012 and April 2013. Georgia's over-the-year growth added 69,400 jobs, or 1.8 percent, since 3,957,500 were recorded in April 2012. Other sectors showing strong growth were: professional and business services, 31,000; leisure and hospitality, 16,100; education and health services, 14,000; and trade and transportation, 12,700. Government jobs were down by 10,500.

The number of layoffs, represented by new claims for unemployment insurance benefits, rose by 5,661, or 15.3 percent, to 42,644 in April from 36,983 in March. The increases came mostly in manufacturing, trade and transportation, along with administrative and support services. However, the number of initial claims was down over-the-year by 4,848, or 10.2 percent, from 47,492 in April 2012. Most of the over-the-year declines came in construction, manufacturing, retail trade, and education and health services.

"In seven of the last 10 years, the number of new claims has increased from March to April, due primarily to seasonal factors," Butler said. "But, if you compare the number of new layoffs this year to April of last year, it's obvious that Georgia's job market is more stable."

The number of long-term unemployed workers declined for the 12th consecutive month. It fell by 4,000 to 177,100 in April, its lowest level since December 2009. The long-term unemployed -- those out of work for more than 26 weeks -- make up 44.8 percent of those unemployed in Georgia.