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Unemployment soars in Newton County
Jobless claims in Newton County exceed that of surrounding counties
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 Newton County’s unemployment rate climbed to new heights in December to 10.4 percent, according to figures released by the Georgia Department of Labor on Thursday.

The county’s unemployment rate is the highest in metro Atlanta. Newton’s unemployment rate is both higher than the state average of 8.1 percent and the national average of 7.2 percent for December. The county’s unemployment rate was 8.8 percent in November.

In December, 1,561 Newton County workers filed for their unemployment insurance initial claims, a sharp increase from November when only 687 residents filed. Overall, the rate of filings in the county has increased by 290 percent since December 2007.

Newton County continues to do worse than its neighboring counties in terms of unemployment claims. In Rockdale County, 867 workers filed for unemployment in December and in Walton County 1,027 workers filed.

At the Covington Career Center of the Georgia Department of Labor on Industrial Boulevard, the number of unemployed workers seeking financial aid and help in finding new employment has steadily increased over the past six months.

Crucita Dansby, an employer marketing representative at the Career Center, which services Newton and Jasper counties, said the center has seen hundreds of people a week come through its doors since the beginning of the year to file for unemployment, collect their benefits, search through job listings, take classes on résumé building and meet with job recruiters.

"In the beginning of November is when people really began coming in," Dansby said, adding "We’re pretty good at getting people back to work as soon as possible. The major problem we’re having is that the skill set that’s being laid off doesn’t match the skill set that employers are looking for…which is certified skilled labor."

Many of the newly unemployed are coming from the manufacturing/construction sectors and are without any college degrees or technical certification.

Trey Adams, 23, of Social Circle, visited the career center last Thursday to apply for unemployment benefits after being laid off in mid-November from a job installing heating and air conditioners in new homes. With the bursting of the housing bubble though, work slowed to a trickle and his employer had to lay off half of his staff, Adams said.

"Nobody’s hiring. I’ve been tons of places," Adams said, adding that he and his wife are currently living off her salary as a public school teacher and his weekly unemployment benefits, which are $330 and will come to an end in a few more months. He said he’s considering going back to school to get a degree.

"I’ve got plenty of time on my hands," Adams said.

Thoneisha Thomas, 27, of Covington had come to the career center in hopes of meeting with a recruitment officer from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution looking to hire for the paper’s circulation department.

After being laid off from Wal-Mart a year ago, Thomas said she had found some work as a server at a local restaurant. However, she could never get enough hours at the restaurant to support herself and her two young sons. She has been unemployed since October though she is receiving some income by helping her neighbor with his business selling exercise equipment.

"There are no jobs out there," she said, adding "I’ve maxed out my unemployment."