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State jobless rate tops national
Hinesville's just under state rate
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Unemployment across the country is the highest it's ever been in five years, according to a federal report released last week.  The country saw unemployment jump from 4.7 percent in July 2007 to 6.1 percent last month. State and local officials acknowledged the soaring statistics and tried to explain why so many more people are without work.
John Lawrence, deputy director of workforce information and analysis for the Georgia Department of Labor in Atlanta, said the state unemployment rates are typically higher than the national average. Georgia's unemployment rate was recently reported at 6.5 percent.
For the Hinesville/Fort Stewart metropolitan area, unemployment has jumped from 5.6 last year to 6.4 percent last July, meaning 2,022 people, of the estimated 71,000 residents in the metropolitan area, are jobless.
Lawrence said inflation and recent downturns in the credit and housing market have "hit especially hard, and forced jobseekers to be more diligent.
"There's always jobs being created, but currently [we have] not created enough new jobs for those being lost," Lawrence said. "The biggest problem is seeing a slow down in the economy overall."
With 1,254 residents on the Hinesville unemployment roll in July, Lawrence said unemployment benefit claims are higher now than at any other time this decade.
"We've actually seen some of our highest (numbers) in the last 13 years," Lawrence said.
Gary Varner, manager of DOL Hinesville Career Center, noticed a recent increase in requests for extensions on unemployment claims that typically last for 26 weeks.
He thinks the rural nature of the community contributes to the difficulty people have in finding local work.
"Because of the size of the area, there is limited availability for jobs locally," Varner said.
He said his office sees people with a variety of skill levels, ranging from those new to job searching to those who have been searching for some time.
"It takes a little longer to find the particular special job here than it would in maybe some other places," he said.
With 40 percent of the local work force holding a high school diploma, Lawrence said higher education doesn’t always guarantee employment. He said it usually takes those with a higher education background longer to find work.
Varner doesn't think the education levels here are any different from other rural areas. He pointed out local technical colleges offer more choices to improve any lacking skills.
"Education always matters," he said. "Hopefully we're able to find a job that matches the employers' skills and wants and the employees' needs."
The career center allows visitors to browse a computer database of available local and state jobs.
Employee marketing representative, PJ Schneider, visits community employers to gather available positions for posting on the database.
"He is a vital link to our workforce and to the individuals looking for employees," Lawrence said.
Aside from unemployment benefits assistance, the center also provides workshops on interview skills, resume writing and professional development.

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