State unemployment marks record high two months in a row
by Matt Shinall
Mar 04, 2011 | 2608 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Joseph Rodwill, left, and Patrick Logan file for unemployment Thursday with the assistance of Georgia Department of Labor services specialist Joyce Darnell at the Cartersville Career Center. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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Data released Thursday by the Georgia Department of Labor reported an all-time high unemployment rate for the state at 10.4 percent in January.

The report also showed rates seasonally adjusted for December inched up from an original 10.2 percent to the 10.4 percent mark. This record level was also met in January 2010.

Nationally, however, the unemployment rate declined in January for the second month in a row to 9 percent. State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler expressed concern over the increasing difference between state and national rates. He attributed this divide -- present now for the 40th consecutive month -- to Georgia's vested interest in the construction industry.

"Not the entire reason, but probably the largest contributing factor and the reason why we are lagging behind the rest of the nation is what was driving our economy at the time when this recession started, which was the construction industry," Butler said.

The catch-22 of the state's current predicament rests in the rate at which growth incurred just before the recession hit. With the demise of the housing market, construction was ceased across much of the nation and state.

"Our population was booming at the time; we were in a very high growth period when the recession hit and a lot of our economy had become somewhat dependent on construction or was directly effected by construction. When that growth came to a halt or started reversing, that pretty much shut down construction," Butler said.

With high unemployment lingering and job creation making slow progress, a dangerous cocktail may form for consumers as the cost of living increases.

Unrest in the Middle East has sent gas prices soaring higher while new reports show that food prices are steadily on the rise. A slump in world grain production last year coupled with high demand caused February to mark the eighth consecutive month of increase in global food prices, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations announced Thursday. All commodity groups monitored, except for sugar, rose in cost last month.

The FAO also reported that the Food Price Index, a monthly measure of international food prices, rose 2.2 percent in February setting a record high not seen since monitoring began in 1990.

Facing several challenges both at home and abroad, a strong recovery in Georgia will depend on various elements.

"Other factors have to start coming back before construction can come back, and it is going to cause us to lag somewhat behind the rest of the nation when it comes to recovery," Butler said.