County job rates improve, show room for growth

Published 9:24 pm Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Georgia Department of Labor announced that the unemployment rate in the Southwest Georgia region decreased to 7.9 percent in February, down two-tenths of a percentage point from 8.1 percent in January — down more than one point from 8.8 in February of 2013.
But while the numbers in the region indicate progress, the numbers in Decatur County specifically are comparably higher.
A March 2014 report by the Georgia Department of Labor showed that the unemployment rate for February 2014 was 9.6 percent, remaining stagnant from the report in January 2014 where the rate was 9.6 percent.
The rate did improve from February 2013, where the rate was 11.3 percent.
“That number is down substantially and that is good news,” John Ard with the Georgia Department of Labor said. “That means the rate dropped almost two percentage points in one year, but it seems Decatur County is in a holding pattern for January and February, that rate remaining the same.”
In February there were 994 residents of Decatur County who were listed as unemployed and looking for a job, down from 1,205 who were listed as unemployed last year.
The Decatur County unemployment rate remains higher than surrounding counties. For February Seminole County had a rate of 7.7 percent, Grady County 6.7 percent, Mitchell County 8.1 percent, Miller County 4.9 percent.
The Department of Labor also reported that there were 101 initial unemployment claims in February — down from the 170 reported in January, but up from 73 reported in February 2013.
The number of initial claims in Decatur County, according to the report, has increased by 38.4 percent over the course of the year.
Of those initial claims in February, 25 were from administrative or government positions, 14 from manufacturing positions, 14 from retail and trade, nine from construction, nine from food services, six from administration and support services and six from healthcare and social assistance.
Decatur County Development Authority Director Rick McCaskill said he sees how the numbers could improve in the next few years as more jobs arrive in the county.
“We have a lot of expansions going on right now which are three jobs here, six jobs there and ten jobs here — and that’s big,” McCaskill said. “And we have new people coming in like Bainbridge Manufacturing who will start to impact the amount of jobs in the last quarter of this year.”
McCaskill said when the housing market crash took along with it three Bainbridge industries directly tied to construction, the Development Authority knew they needed to diversify.
“We are very heavily in agriculture and still in construction manufacturing,” McCaskill said. “But we are trying to diversify in Decatur County now with people like Bainbridge Manufacturing and Meredian so we will not be exclusively tied to one industry and be able to provide more jobs.”
Bainbridge Manufacturing expects to bring 240 jobs to the area.

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