Georgia’s unemployment rate fell for the third straight month in December — dropping to 9.7 percent from a revised 9.8 percent in November, the state labor department said Thursday.
It’s the largest two-month decrease in unemployment since 1977, the labor department said.
A year ago, the jobless rate stood at 10.4 percent.
“This is great news for our state, particularly for Georgians who have faced a tough job market for several years now,” Gov. Nathan Deal said in a statement.
Still, Georgia’s rate remains considerably higher than the nation’s, which has dropped to 8.5 percent.
“The rate declined because 11,500 Georgians went back to work in December,” state Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said in a statement.
He said there were “some increases in employment in areas that have been especially hard hit.”
There were 600 new construction jobs in December, the first time construction has gained jobs in December since 2003. Manufacturing grew by 400 jobs, the first December growth since 2005. Job gains also came in information services, trade and transportation.
But despite the increases in those job sectors, the overall number of jobs dropped two-tenths of a percentage point from November to 3,826,900. About one-half of the loss was seasonal jobs that traditionally end after the Christmas holidays. Still, the number of jobs in December remained 14,000 fewer than in December 2010.
“Although there were fewer jobs overall than last December, the private sector actually created 11,300 jobs over the year, which is a positive,” Butler said. “But those gains were offset by 20,300 job cuts in state and local government as the public sector adjusted to shrinking budgets.”
The number of first-time claims for unemployment insurance benefits rose to 63,714 — up 10.7 percent November. Some of the increase is attributed to traditional holiday layoffs, the labor department said.
On the positive side, the number of initial unemployment claims dropped 15.8 percent from December of last year.
Also, the number of long-term unemployed workers — those jobless for at least 27 weeks — decreased to 245,100. That’s a drop of 3,800 from November and represents the fewest number since October of 2010. Still, the long-term unemployed account for a very high 53.4 percent of the state’s jobless workers.