NW Georgia jobless rate at 2-year low

NW Georgia jobless rate at 2-year low

April 27th, 2011 by Andy Johns in Business Around the Region

Northwest Georgia's unemployment rate dropped in March to 10.2 percent, the lowest rate since April 2009.

The Georgia Department of Labor released encouraging job statistics Tuesday that showed a declining jobless rate in Whitfield, Walker, Chattooga and Gordon counties.

"This is encouraging and hopefully indicates that a modest recovery may be building throughout the state," Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said in a statement.

Dalton-Whitfield Chamber of Commerce Director Brian Anderson said Whitfield County's drop from 12.2 percent to 11.3 percent is "remarkable" and said it offered "cautious encouragement."

"I do believe that it's a sign that we're continuing to head in the right direction," Anderson said.

Dade and Catoosa counties saw their rates climb a few ticks, but still maintain the lowest unemployment rates in the region and some of the lowest in the state. Catoosa County had the sixth lowest rate in the state.

Debbie Tinker, executive director of the Dade County Chamber of Commerce, said Dade and other counties in the region benefit from expansion and new companies in Chattanooga.

"I think that hiring is going on," she said. "A lot of people work outside the county."

Recent news that Chattem would add 100 jobs at a new facility on the Dade-Hamilton County line was a welcomed development for many longtime job seekers in the county.

"A lot of people in Dade County want to work, and they've been hunting," Tinker said.

Chattooga County, which had had a jobless rate as high as 18 percent in 2009, was down to 11.2 percent, from 11.8 last month.

Commissioner Jason Winters said companies like Mohawk, Mount Vernon Mills and Smith Iron Works have been able to add a few positions over the last few months.

"Some of our larger industry has weathered the storm," he said. "It's not where you want it to be but we could be in a lot worse shape."

Winters said the gains for the region could be short lived, however, because the state has plans to shutter Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital, a psychiatric hospital later this year. The hospital employs more than 750 people.