Cherokee County’s unemployment rate fell two-tenths of a point from 5.9 percent in January to 5.7 percent in February, and local experts credit the drop primarily to a decline in the number of layoffs.
Hamilton Bank chairman Dennis Burnette said despite the trend of a lowering unemployment rate in recent months, many people in the community are still underemployed and the economy still has room to improve.
“We’ve reached a point where our unemployment has been at a lower point, and I think there are jobs out there,” Burnette said. “But, a lot of people are underemployed. Some of our unemployed were making, say, $150,000, and now there are no $150,000 jobs out there.”
Burnette said the economy is in relatively good shape, but he doesn’t expect a big jump in the number of jobs created in the near future.
In February 2013, the unemployment rate in Cherokee was 7 percent, with 105,810 people employed and 8,001 people unemployed.
Last month, Cherokee recorded 107,797 people employed in February this year, and 6,486 unemployed, or 5.7 percent, according to seasonally unadjusted figures released Thursday by the Georgia Department of Labor.
Forsyth had the lowest unemployment rate in the area last month at 5.3 percent, with Cherokee County following in second place.
Nearby counties’ unemployment rates for February are: Bartow at 7.3 percent, Cobb at 6.3 percent, DeKalb at 7.2 percent, Douglas at 7.3 percent, Fulton at 7.7 percent, Forsyth at 5.3 percent and Paulding at 6.4 percent.
Statewide, the February unemployment rate was 7.1 percent, down from 7.3 percent in January. In February 2013, the statewide unemployment rate was 8.5 percent.
In metro Atlanta, unemployment dropped from 7.1 January to 6.9 in February. In February a year ago, the metro Atlanta unemployment rate was 8.4 percent.
The number of initial claims for unemployment insurance fell in Cherokee, from 670 in January to 562 in February, a decrease of 108 claims or 16.1 percent.
Over the past year, the number of initial claims in Cherokee dropped by 7.7 percent, or 47 less claims than in February a year ago.
Despite a loss of seasonal jobs in January, the metro Atlanta area has gained more than 40,000 jobs over the past year, said Sam Hall, communications director for the Georgia Department of Labor.
“The rate declined because there were 23.3 percent fewer new layoffs, as the number of initial claims for unemployment insurance dropped,” Hall said about the metro Atlanta area in a news release Thursday.
The metro area lost about 1,900 seasonal jobs in January, the Department of Labor figures show, mostly in the leisure, hospitality and retail trade.
In metro Atlanta, employers added jobs in multiple sectors since last February, with the majority of additions coming in the industries of trade, transportation and warehousing (12,800 jobs); leisure and hospitality (8,100 jobs); professional and business services (8,200 jobs); construction (6,400 jobs); education and health care (5,900 jobs); and financial services (1,200 jobs).
The government sector is the only to decline, losing 2,600 jobs in the past year.