The metro Dalton area (Whitfield and Murray counties) lost 3,400 jobs from February 2011 to February of this year, a 5.2 percent decrease.

The number of jobs dropped from 65,900 in February 2011 to 62,500.

That was the largest percentage decrease among the state’s 14 metro areas. The Rome metro area lost 1,200 jobs (down 3.2 percent, the next largest percentage decrease), while the Gainesville metro area saw the largest percentage increase (5.8), gaining 4,200 jobs during the period.

State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said Thursday that Georgia’s February seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined for the seventh consecutive month to 9.1 percent, the lowest rate since March 2009, when it was also 9.1 percent. That is a decline of one-tenth of a percentage point from a revised 9.2 percent in January. The jobless rate was 9.9 percent in February a year ago.

“February’s economic data is encouraging,” Butler said. “We created 15,600 jobs, lots of unemployed Georgians went back to work, and fewer people were laid off. After back-to-back quarters of declining unemployment and continued job creation, it looks like Georgia’s businesses are trending toward a comeback.”

The number of jobs in February increased to 3,880,400, with 70 percent of the February growth coming in the private sector. Also, newly revised numbers show the state gained 41,800 jobs in the past 12 months.

The employment sectors showing growth over the year were professional and business services, 28,000; retail trade, 12,700; education and health care, 8,300; and manufacturing, 4,200.

“Manufacturing has always been a staple of Georgia’s economy and it was hit hard during this recession,” Butler said. “Watching employment in the manufacturing field rise is very encouraging. At the same time, growth in professional services shows that business owners are feeling confident about adding new people. I hope to see the numbers get even better as the year moves forward.”

In February, the number of first-time claims for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits declined to the lowest number since June 2008. The number of claims dropped to 46,326, down 31,430, or 40.4 percent, from 77,756 in January. Most of the decrease came in manufacturing, administrative and support services, trade, construction and accommodations and food services. Initial claims were also down over the year, declining by 9,250, or 16.6 percent, from 55,576 in February of last year.  

Also, the number of long-term unemployed workers decreased 2,500, to 241,700 from January to February, the fewest number since October 2010. 

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