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State initial jobless claims soaring
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ATLANTA — The Georgia Department of Labor announced that 128,625 laid-off workers filed first-time claims for state unemployment insurance benefits in December, an increase of 174 percent from December 2007.

The metropolitan areas with the highest percentage of increase in claims are Rome, up 351 percent; Dalton, up 349 percent; and Gainesville, up 216 percent. The areas with the smallest increase in claims are Hinesville, up 92 percent; Macon, up 116 percent; and Augusta, up 119 percent.              

“Stunning and sobering,” is how State Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond described the sharp increase in the number of Georgians filing unemployment insurance claims. “The December claims report confirms the severity of this economic downturn and increases the probability that the current recession will be long and difficult.”

The GDOL also processed 19,160 first-time claims for federal extended unemployment benefits, bringing the total to 111,384 since the federal program triggered in Georgia in July 2008. Federal extended benefits are available to jobless workers who have exhausted regular state unemployment compensation.

Thurmond urged job seekers to continue to look for work, explore training and education opportunities and to make full use of the department’s highly regarded re-employment services programs. He noted that the GDOL was recently awarded the 2008 “Full Employment Award,” by the Oregon-based American Institute for Full Employment (AIFE). The department was recognized as the state employment agency that “best exemplifies commitment and dedication to the re-employment of unemployment insurance claimants through proactive policies and innovative programs.”  

Most of the state initial claims were filed by laid-off workers in the manufacturing, construction and trade industries, along with administrative and support services, including temporary employment agencies.