Unemployment numbers for Metro Columbus continue to decrease

Unemployment numbers for Metro Columbus continue to decrease

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The number of people looking for jobs in the Fountain City continues to decrease. The Georgia Department of Labor stated that the unemployment rate is lower than what it was this time in 2013.

According to the Georgia Department of Labor's website, the unemployment rate decreased to 7.6 percent in March 2014 for the metro Columbus area. Metro Columbus area is composed of five counties: Muscogee, Harris, Chattahoochee, Marion and Russell County in Alabama.

Muscogee County's unemployment rate is actually 7.8 percent, while Harris County's number is 5.7 percent. However, the Metro Columbus area's average unemployment number is 7.6 percent.

The unemployment rate for the Metro Columbus area was 8.4 percent in March of 2013.

"We are definitely doing better now," said Dr. Benjamin Blair from Columbus State University. "We went from 7.7 in February to 7.6 in March. It's a slow transition, but we are definitely getting better."

Dr. Blair explained that Columbus was at 4.8 percent for unemployment rate in March 2007 before the recession hit in December of 2007.

"We have officially come out of the recession at the end of June in 2009," Dr. Blair said. "But we still have a long way to go. In the peak of recession, we were at 10 percent for unemployment rate. So we are making progress."

Dr. Blair said the unemployment rates and numbers are often affected by seasons.

"In the summer time, the numbers usually go up," Dr. Blair said. "You have teenagers getting out of high school and they look for part-time jobs. So they enter the labor force and many are unemployed. So the unemployment number will go up during summer. However, it also goes down during December and November, because people hire part-time workers for the Christmas season."

The professor said there is good and bad news to the recent unemployment rate.

"The good news is that our labor force is increasing, and that's what you would want to have," Dr. Blair continued. "It's the sign of growing and vibrating economy. It means that people are either looking for work or employed. But there is bad news as well. We have more people entering the job force with less job force available. So employers are not creating jobs as more people enter the labor force."

Dr. Blair explained that the population in Columbus is increasing.  If people are moving to the city with jobs, the unemployment rate will go down. However, if more people move to the city to look for jobs, then the unemployment will go up.

Mayor Teresa Tomlinson told News Leader 9 that Columbus stands as the second largest city in the State of Georgia.

"In the past three years, we have seen our unemployment rate go from 9.8 percent to 7.6 percent," the Mayor said. "that's real progress, thanks to an excellent economic development team. We are doing a great job at retaining our large employers and facilitating their expansion, like at Pratt-Whitney and NCR. Kodak recently announced that Columbus will be retaining their 200 jobs and adding another 40."

Mayor Tomlinson stated that the city has helped created 1,200 jobs so far.

"I believe it is the economy continuing to recover after the long recession, and the vibrancy of the city," Mayor Tomlinson said. "Job fields like manufacturing and hospitality sectors are increasing. Our next effort will be to go after jobs with the creative industry, which provides for high paying jobs, requires a skilled and innovative work force."

Mayor Tomlinson also mentioned that the Development Authority, a group of appointed citizens, help create job opportunities for Columbus.

The Metro Columbus area's unemployment number is slightly higher than Georgia's unemployment number overall. Georgia's overall unemployment rate for March was 7.0 percent. It went down from 7.1 percent in February. According to the Georgia Department of Labor, the state's rate was 8.4 percent back in March of 2013.

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