Fewer layoffs and a rising number of jobs caused the unemployment rate in Metro Dalton to plummet in August.
The Georgia Department of Labor reports the unemployment rate for the metro region, which includes Whitfield and Murray counties, dropped to 10.3 percent from 12.3 percent in July. The rate was 11.4 percent in August 2012.
The metro Dalton rate had fallen steadily during the first part of this year before spiking upwards in both June and July.
“What we were told is that the improving economy was bringing more people back into the workforce and that was what caused the unemployment rate to rise,” said Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce President Brian Anderson.
The unemployment rate is the share of individuals in the workforce who do not have jobs. The labor force is those who have jobs or are looking for work. Someone who is not employed but is not looking for a job does not count as part of the unemployed. But if that person starts to look for work he counts as part of the unemployed.
The metro Dalton area added 300 jobs in August from July, mostly in manufacturing, construction and government.
“I believe that we have seen the last of the 12s and 11 (percent unemployment rates), and I think we should see that 10 start to drop, though maybe not by 2 points a month, because we have had about 2,000 jobs announced in the last several months. Most of those will come online in 2014. Some of them as early as January,” Anderson said.
Several companies, including Shaw Industries and Engineered Floors, have announced major expansion plans for Whitfield and Murray counties this year.
Dinah Rowe, president and CEO of the Chatsworth-Eton-Murray County Chamber of Commerce, said she believes the unemployment rate will continue to decline.
“Companies such as Mattex and Engineered Floors are building plants and adding jobs and putting money into the local economy. That’s a good indicator we are on an upward swing,” she said.
Murray County resident Dennis Bryant said those jobs need to be added quickly.
“I’ve been lucky, but I know of quite a few people who lost their jobs and haven’t been able to find work. Or if they did find work it was for a lot less than they were making,” he said.
Meanwhile, layoffs, which are measured by initial claims for unemployment, dropped dramatically in August to 825 from 2,284 in July.
“There are a number of positive elements in today’s economy that are having an impact in Dalton and all of northwest Georgia,” said Larry Johnson, dean of the business school and professor of economics at Dalton State College. “The U.S. economy is growing at a moderate rate of 2.5 percent and initial (jobless) claims, existing home sales and new residential and commercial construction are at levels not seen in six to eight years.
“Durable goods orders and factory output continue to rise and consumer confidence remains strong. All these things bode well for this region where manufacturing and the flooring industry in particular are key components of the economy.”
Whitfield County Board of Commissioners Chairman Mike Babb said the falling unemployment numbers show that the county’s efforts to recruit business by providing tax breaks and other incentives are starting to pay off.
“Ten percent is better than 12 percent. But it was 5 percent not that many years ago, and that’s what most of the experts consider full employment. I’d like to see us back at 5 percent again, and we are going to keep working to bring in new business,” he said.