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87 counties post double digit unemployment
Unemployment Rates by County - Feb09 2
Unemployment rates by county for February 2009. Statewide, the rate is 9.4 percent - photo by Georgia Department of Labor graphic

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The Hinesville area's rate stood at 8.2 in February, up seven-tenths of a percent from the 7.5 percent posted in January, and up 3.2 percent points over February 2008.

ATLANTA - More than half of Georgia's 159 counties have posted double-digit unemployment rates, according to an analysis from the state Labor Department.

Georgia has a record-high 9.3 percent jobless rate, more than a percentage point above the national average of 8.1 percent.

State Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond said Wednesday that the county data paints a worrisome portrait of how the recession is hitting home for Georgians.

"There's been a lot of talk about when and if the state will hit double digits," Thurmond said. "Well, in many places around the state, we're already there."

Of the 87 counties with double-digit jobless rates, many are in rural areas of the state. The worst was Jenkins County, in eastern Georgia, which state labor officials said has a 21.3 percent jobless rate. The county was hit hard by the 2006 closure of a Jockey International sewing plant in Millen. Hancock County was second with 19.1 percent unemployment. Warren County was third at 16.8 percent.

"The loss of manufacturing jobs have been devastating to rural Georgia," Thurmond said.

Thurmond said double-digit unemployment rates are also beginning to creep into metro Atlanta.

Among the suburban Atlanta counties posting double-digit unemployment rates are Clayton (10.3 percent), Bartow (11.4 percent) and Rockdale (10.3 percent).

The counties with the lowest unemployment rates are Oconee (6 percent) as well as Lee and Long counties (6.7 percent).

Georgia's unemployment rate is at record-high 9.3 percent when it is seasonally adjusted.

The non-seasonally adjusted rate is 9.4 percent.

Currently, 445,498 Georgians are unemployed and looking for work. That's a jump of 69.2 percent over the year. Of that number, 159,359, or 35.8 percent, are receiving unemployment insurance benefits.

Thurmond warned that the state's unemployment insurance fund could run out of state money before the end of the year unless the economy improves. The fund is being helped along by federal stimulus funds.

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