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Area jobless claims up
Unemployment claims hit 318 in June, up from 242 in May
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Mark Smith, who didn’t want to use his real name, tried to file for unemployment insurance Tuesday afternoon for the second time at the Hinesville Career Center.

"It’s a lot of paperwork, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do," Smith said. "There’s only one person working in there right now, so that doesn’t help."

Since being laid off last August, the Liberty County resident has only been able to find occasional work. His first application for benefits wasn’t approved.

"I’ve been here 20 years and I’ve never seen it like this," Smith said of the job market. "It’s really bad."

With 318 new people filing for unemployment insurance claims in June, the Hinesville area saw a jump from 242 in May and 164 in June 2008.

Those with steady jobs may want to take notice, according to Armstrong Atlantic State University economics professor Dr. Michael Toma.

Though indirectly, everyone is bearing the burden of the jobless in the community, explained Toma, who also is the director for the Center of Regional Analysis. No one is "recession-proof."

It takes taxpayers’ money to support assistance programs, like food stamps.

"The increased spending on these government support programs in a slack economy is also contributing to what will be a record federal government budget deficit this year," Toma said.

Unemployment benefits are funded by regular employer taxes.

The unsteady economy has changed a lot, but unemployment trends can be seasonal, according to Gary Varner, manager of the Georgia Department of Labor career center in Hinesville.

"Normally, our jobs do pick up during the summertime, [but] the economy has had an impact," Varner said.

He thinks the number of openings offset the number of unemployed.

"We’ve actually been very fortunate to maintain a level flow where it’s not peaking, so to speak," Varner said of area layoffs. "I think that has a lot to do with the type of community we’re in. We have a positive factor here and that’s Fort Stewart."

The layoffs the center sees often involve residents who had been employed outside the county, according to P.J. Schneider, employment marketing representative. He keeps track of area job openings.

"These are [workers] who live in the area but they found work in other areas and those other areas had layoffs," Schneider said.

The county has the lowest number of first-time unemployment filers in the state.

But the local job market is not completely isolated from the effects of rising unemployment.

"I probably get about 10 people a day asking for applications," said Shawn Schulte, manager at CiCi’s Pizza. He said there aren’t enough jobs to go around.

"There’s people coming in, asking if we’re hiring and calling on the phone," said Anjelica Baker, one of the managers at Dollar General. "And I’ve only been here two months."

Jobs will come as the market gets better.

"The improvement in the labor market emerges after the low point in economic activity," Toma said. He estimates things will turn around in mid-2010.

Smith is waiting the estimated two weeks for his unemployment benefits application to be processed.

"I haven’t received any [benefits] yet, but I’m hoping I will," Smith said.

Liberty County’s unemployment rate is currently 7.4 percent.

The GDOL is due to release updated, localized unemployment rates next week.

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