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Unemployment up, but outlook positive
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While Newton County's unemployment rate increased in January for a second straight month, hiring is expected to pick up in the Atlanta region as 20 percent of regional companies say they plan to hire more workers during the next three months.

"Unemployment will remain high, but employers are hiring," said Robyn Chapman with the local office of ManpowerGroup, a global staffing firm.

"They are taking their time, though, and making sure the fit is right on all hiring levels before taking the leap to hire."

The cautiously optimistic outlook comes from Manpower's Employment Outlook Survey, which represents the expectations of more than 18,000 employers in the U.S. and more than 65,000 employers in 41 countries and territories.

The survey's results are the most positive yet in a string of improving hiring fortunes, as 20 percent of companies expect to increase staff levels, while only 5 percent plan to decrease staff levels.

The rest of companies plan to either maintain staff levels, 69 percent, or don't yet know, 6 percent.

Newton County's unemployment rate has continually lagged behind the Atlanta region and the state, and the county's unemployment rate increased by 0.3 percent in January to 11.2 percent, as the number of employed workers decreased by 170.

However, the unemployment rate was still nearly a full percentage point lower than a year ago.

The unemployment rate for the Atlanta region also increased slightly to 9.2 percent, as the region lost nearly 9,700 workers, while the state gained 13,000 workers and saw its unemployment fall from 9.4 to 9.2 percent.

The state continued to lag behind the U.S. unemployment rate which also dropped by 0.2 percent to 8.3 percent in January.

Every sector declined in employment except for manufacturing and the other services category, which includes repair and maintenance, personal and laundry services and religions, civic and professional organizations. Trade, transportation and utilities saw the largest drop, with leisure and hospitality and government also losing workers.

On the other hand, Manpower's survey expected job increases in every sector except for construction, which was expected to see a reduction in jobs, and government, which was expected to remain unchanged.

Manufacturing has been one of Newton's bright spots during the downturn, and Chapman said she expected manufacturing hiring to continue to increase in the region east of Atlanta.

As far as the U.S. in general, 18 percent of companies expected to increase hiring, while 6 percent expected to reduce staffing levels. Nationally, leisure and hospitality was expected to increase 26 percent, professional and business services 17 percent and durable goods manufacturing 15 percent.

ManpowerGroup CEO Jeff Joerres said in an overview that the U.S. had 10 consecutive quarters of positive hiring information for the first time since 2008.

However, companies are expected to watch global issues and may not hire at faster rates until China's growth stops dropping and the Euro Zone sorts itself out, Joerres said. He said companies are more concerned with prematurely over-hiring than they are concerned about missing out on opportunities.