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Posted: January 19, 2012 9:05 a.m.

Ga. jobless rate drops to 9.7 percent

ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has declined for the third straight month in December, to 9.7 percent, state labor officials said Thursday.

The new number is a one-tenth of a percentage point decline from a revised 9.8 percent in November, Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said. He said that makes this the largest two-month decrease in unemployment since 1977.

The jobless rate was 10.4 percent in December a year ago.

"The rate declined because 11,500 Georgians went back to work in December," said Butler, adding that "we saw some increases in employment in areas that have been especially hard hit."

The new numbers are welcome news for Georgians in a tough job market, Gov. Nathan Deal said in a statement.

"A decrease in unemployment alongside a number of other positive economic indicators suggests we are heading in the right direction," Deal said.

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