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Posted: January 26, 2012 7:57 p.m.

Newton residents gained 1,366 jobs in '11

Despite an unemployment rate largely unchanged from a year ago, Newton County residents gained 1,366 jobs during 2011, buoyed largely by growth in November.

Newton County's unemployment rate actually increased in December 2011 from 11.3 to 11.7 percent, after dropping in October and November, but the county still added 37 jobs, according to numbers released by the Georgia Department of Labor Thursday.

Employment and unemployment both increased in December, presumably because more people were officially looking for work. Employment has been steadily increasing since August and 41,355 residents were employed in December. The job additions pulled the unemployment rate down from its high of 12.8 percent in September.

"We are seeing an increase in more technical positions from work being relocated to this area within established companies," said Jamie Cummings, general manager of Apollo Staffing in Covington.

However, she noted companies were hiring more temporary and part-time workers, which she believed was "due to the increase in unemployment and fear of change in business." The hope is 2012 will have more job additions in store.

"We are optimistic that due to the increase of companies using contingent (temporary or part-time) workers and new industries coming to the area, our numbers will go up," she said.

Newton County's unemployment rate continued to lag behind Atlanta's (9.4) and state's (9.7) in part because construction, wholesale trade and information industries all saw claims for jobless benefits rise, said Corey Smith, a state labor market analyst. Newton's rate also remained higher than all of its neighboring counties besides Butts County at 11.7 percent.

Smith said the past three months have seen Georgia and Atlanta add jobs primarily in the retail trade, education and health services and professional and business services industries.

In December, the metro Atlanta region had a net gain of 2,500 jobs but also suffered job losses in leisure and hospitality and professional and business services, Smith said.

Specific sector breakdowns are not available for individual counties, because they are based on census counts, instead of monthly surveys. Quarterly averages for counties, which lag 6 to 9 months behind, are available at explorer.dol.state.ga.us/mis/quarterly_mix_county.htm.

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