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Posted: April 25, 2013 8:14 p.m.

Unemployment drops again

Newton County’s unemployment rate of 9.4 percent in March is the lowest since November 2008, — before the housing market crash fully hit Newton County — according to the labor department.

The rate continued its drop in 2013, falling another 0.4 percent, as an estimated 148 workers found new employment in Newton County in March.

Unemployment dropped by 136 and the estimated labor force only increased by 12, leading to hope that the change represents true new job creation.

Similarly, initial unemployment claims were also down again, falling to 449 in March from 467 in February.

“Over the past year, we have seen an increase in manpower of roughly 35 percent, primarily due to expansions within local companies. The numbers for each individual company may not be extremely high, but companies are steadily growing. We have also seen an increase in administrative positions to support this growth,” said Jamie Cummings, general manager of Apollo Staffing.

Hunter Hall, president of the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce, said local industries continue to hire; he said he’s seen recent hiring signs at Clarion Metals and Oldcastle Glass and knows that Vestar Technologies has openings they’re filling.

Hall said four to five businesses have come in to the chamber related to Baxter International, including a security company that’s hiring locals.

“In general, I see small businesses with some optimism that are slowly trying to position themselves to play offense,” Hall said.

Cummings said she and other companies continue to work to try to match up unemployed workers with the needs of the current workforce.

“I was able to meet with (Labor Commissioner) Mark Butler on Wednesday to discuss the issues we, as a business in Georgia, face with unemployment and ideas on how to get a good handle on unemployment cases. We spoke about the skill gap that we often face with filling skilled-labor positions and new ideas that Mr. Butler has come up with to help employers in putting unemployed people back to work,” Cummings said. “I believe we are understanding more what companies are in need of and we are working diligently to give them what they are asking for.”

Similar unemployment results were seen in much of the state, as metro Atlanta unemployment dropped by 0.4 percent to 7.9 percent in March, while the state number dropped 0.2 percent to 8.4 percent.

Labor Commissioner Butler said Atlanta businesses created more than 13,000 jobs in the month, while making fewer layoffs.

Much of the growth came in leisure and hospitality with 5,900 jobs added, while administrative and support services, 4,600, and professional and business services, 4,200, were also big gainers.

The number of government jobs in the metro region declined by 1,400.

Layoffs in the metro region fell to 17,222 in March, with the decreases coming mostly in construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation, warehousing, administrative and support services and accommodations and food services, according to the labor department report.

The unemployment rate has been up and down since the economic recession officially ended, but March’s progress continues a gradual decline.

Metro Athens had the lowest area jobless rate in the Northeast Region, which includes Newton county, at 5.9 percent.

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