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Posted: March 22, 2012 2:20 p.m.

Georgia jobless rate drops to 3-year low

ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia's jobless rate has dropped to a three-year low, state labor officials said Thursday.

The state's February seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined for the seventh consecutive month to 9.1 percent, Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said Thursday.

That's the lowest rate since March of 2009, when it was also 9.1 percent.

"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."

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

Employment sectors showing growth in the past year included professional and business services, with 28,000 jobs; and manufacturing, with 4,200 jobs. Butler called that an encouraging sign.

"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," he said. "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."

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