ATLANTA — Georgia’s unemployment rate has fallen sharply to 9.9 percent in November, the largest one-month decline in 34 years, the state’s labor commissioner announced Thursday.
Commissioner Mark Butler said the rate dropped from 10.2 percent in October because of an increase of 22,400 jobs in the state. Butler said not all of the growth was linked to an uptick in holiday hiring but also could be attributed to gains in the financial and business sectors, as well as an increase of jobs in education and health care.
The gain in employment is a big step, state economist Kenneth Heaghney of Georgia State University said.
“People are becoming more confident about their job prospects,” he said. “Some of those who have been out of the workforce or not looking for work are beginning to look again.”
The number of jobs in the state rose to 3.8 million in November. Georgia still has about 20,000 fewer jobs than it did in November 2010, when the jobless rate was 10.4 percent. That’s largely because 22,500 government jobs were cut during the past year, Butler said.
“I think it’s evidence that our state and local leadership is being sensitive to the taxpayer and trying to make government live within its means,” Butler said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the private sector has gained 2,600 jobs, mostly in manufacturing and service-related industries.
Heaghney said the improved unemployment numbers are part of a longer-term trend of about the past six to eight months, and that the state isn’t out of the woods yet.
“Month-to-month changes are very volatile,” he said. “You have to be very careful about picking one month and reading too much into it.”
The number of long-term unemployed workers decreased 10,400 to 248,900 from October to November, a 1.3 percent decrease from November 2010. However, the long-term unemployed still make up more than half of Georgia’s jobless.
It is the 52nd consecutive month that Georgia has exceeded the national unemployment rate, which is currently 8.6 percent.
Georgia Budget and Policy Institute Director Alan Essig said the latest figures are good news, but he remained cautious.
“Any kind of job growth is positive, but one month doesn’t make a trend,” he said. “Hopefully it will continue going forward.”
Essig said the state must do its part to prepare citizens and create an environment for better economic times, including focusing on workforce development and transportation and water infrastructure.
“No matter what the month-to-month numbers are, there are some underlying fundamentals the state needs to get right,” he said. “If we get those right, we’ll be able to take maximum advantage of the economic recovery that we all hope we’re in the beginning of.”