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Posted: April 13, 2012 9:13 a.m.

7 state unemployment offices to close

The state Department of Labor is shuttering seven of its 53 career centers in a move officials say will save the agency about $3 million.

No employees are losing their jobs as a result of the closings, which are effective July 1, the agency said Thursday. The 61 employees affected will be relocated to other offices that have staff shortages.

Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said the agency began looking at closings early last year and considered multiple criteria in making the decision.

The Labor Department will continue to operate 46 career centers statewide. The agency is also increasing its online presence, where full registration for employment services will be available in the coming weeks

"As we go forward, we're looking at different ways to have a physical presence in more communities," Butler said. "The main thing is that we're trying to increase the availability of services, including better technology and flexibility. We're trying to maximize taxpayer dollars and delivery of service."

Butler said the budget cuts approved by the state Legislature this year played a role in the decision to close offices. Gov. Nathan Deal asked state agencies to make 2 percent cuts in their budgets, and Butler said the Labor Department cuts exceeded that mandate.

The Labor Department is moving rapidly to increase its online presence, Butler said, and more office locations could be closed.

"Not saying there won't be more office closings in the future ... we may move some office locations down the road. Nothing's written in stone as of yet."

The offices being closed are in Blairsville, Camilla, Elberton, Kings Bay, Eastman, Monroe and Fort Oglethorpe. Alternate locations for people served in those offices were listed as Blue Ridge, Moultrie, Athens, Waycross/Brunswick, Dublin, Covington/Athens and Dalton.

According to the Labor Department, more than 36,000 individuals registered for employment services in 2011 at the centers being closed. That number does not reflect employers who used the career centers for business services or people who used them for anything other than direct services, such as access to computers or copy or fax machines.

Most of the alternative offices listed are an average of 35 miles away from the nearest center being closed. Butler acknowledged the potential impact on people served in those areas, saying that "some of them are going to be further away than others."

But he also said most of the closings are in areas that were serving fewer people.

Georgia's unemployment rate is 9.1 percent and has declined for seven straight months.

It is still above the national average of 8.3 percent.

 

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