The jobless rate in Georgia is still well above the national average, but it is headed in the right direction. The unemployment rate fell to 9 percent in September, down from 9.2 percent in August. That 0.2 percent may not sound like much, but it shows a lot of new jobs since last year.

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler released a statement today detailing the decline.

“The unemployment rate dropped in September because Georgia had the fewest new claims for unemployment insurance benefits in five years, since before the start of the Great Recession,” state Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said in a statement.

Georgia has added 61,800 new jobs since September 2011, when the unemployment rate was 9.8 percent. The Atlanta metro area added more than half – 31,400 – of those during that time period.

Georgia’s 9 percent unemployment is still well above the national rate of 7.8 percent, but it reflects trends in the Southeast, which has had unemployment rates above the national average for some time. Neighboring states like South Carolina (9.6 percent), North Carolina (9.7), Alabama (8.5) and Florida (8.8) have all consistently demonstrated this.

The number of initial unemployment claims in September dropped below 40,000, making last month’s filings the fewest since September 2007. Most of the decline came in administrative and support services, retail trade, health care and social assistance, educational services, and accommodations and food services.

Butler highlighted the improvement in the state’s manufacturing industry in his statement.

“Last month’s gain in manufacturing jobs was the largest over-the-month gain that we’ve seen for this time period since 1994,” he said. The number of manufacturing jobs from August to September grew by 1,900.

The Labor Commission had more good signs for Georgia’s economy. The labor force increased by 18,126 from August to total 4,777,977 in September. Additionally, the number of long-term unemployed workers – those jobless for at least 27 weeks – fell for the fifth consecutive month. It dropped 8,400 from August to total 208,800 in September, which is the fewest since March 2010. The long-term unemployed now only make up 48.6 percent of those out of work in Georgia – the lowest percentage in two years.

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