The county’s unemployment rate edged upward to 9.7 percent in May, compared to 9.3 percent in April, according to Georgia Department of Labor preliminary figures.
But the county’s unemployment rate is down by 1.1 percentage points from last May, when the it was 10.8 percent.
“We usually see a bump upward near the beginning of summer, when students start entering the work force,” said Dr. Joey Smith, assistant professor of economics at University of West Georgia. “This includes high school kids out looking for summer jobs, as well as recent college graduates.”
The county level unemployment numbers are not seasonally adjusted to account for such seasonal variations, but the state level figures are.
According to the just released figures, Carroll County had a May labor force of 52,621, with 47,501 employed and 5,120 without work. That compares with an April labor force of 52,154, with 47,298 employed and 4,856 without jobs.
Last May, the labor force was 52,360, with 46,720 working and 5,640 unemployed.
Georgia’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate remained at 8.9 percent from April to May, according to Thursday’s report.
Smith said that while the unemployment rate is trending downward from last year, it’s still not moving very fast.
“We have turned it in the right direction, but we really haven’t gotten into recovery yet,” he said. “We need to add a lot more jobs to the market to take it down to a number we’re comfortable with. We haven’t added the number of jobs back to the economy we should have after a recession has ended.”
Smith said another danger looming on the horizon is the European economic situation.
“Georgia has a large export-based economy and we produce a lot of car parts for automobiles being exported out of the country,” he said. “If things continue to get worse in Spain and Italy, that will eventually come back to hurt the Georgia economy.”
Smith sees some positive signs in recent small business starts and new retail businesses entering the county.
“Small business is one of the drivers of the economy since they employ so many people,” he said. “However, they’re just not doing it fast enough. There’s still plenty of open spaces for businesses to move in.”
He said the new Buffalo Creek technology park is a positive influence for the county although it doesn’t yet have any occupants.
“Once somebody moves in, it will make it more attractive to others,” Smith said. “The hard part is attracting that first company.”
Metro Athens had the lowest May jobless figure in the state with 6.5 percent, while metro Dalton had the highest with 11.4 percent.
“One benefit Athens has is a university needing lots of goods and services,” Smith said. “We have a similar advantage here with the university. It adds to the size of the economy and helps reduce unemployment.”
Smith said Dalton is still suffering from the housing decline.
“Dalton has been hammered by the recession,” he noted. “They had lots of textile and carpet jobs when the building boom was on and houses were being built.”
Almost all counties in the West Georgia region showed the same small uptick in jobless rates. The Three Rivers development region, of which Carroll County is a part, had a jobless rate of 9.5 percent in May, up from 9.2 percent in April, but down from 10.3 percent last May.
The U.S. preliminary seasonally unemployment rate for May was 8.2 percent, up from 8.1 percent in April and down from 9.0 percent last May.
Jobless rates for other nearby counties:
• Coweta, 8.1 percent in May, compared to 7.8 percent in April, and 8.4 percent last May.
• Douglas, 9.1 percent in May, up from 8.8 percent in April, and down from 10.0 percent last May.
• Haralson, 9.6 percent in May, up from 9.3 percent in April, and down from 10.7 percent last May.
• Heard, 9.4 percent in May, down from 9.9 percent in April, and down from 10.4 percent last May.
• Paulding, 8.3 percent in May, up from 7.9 percent in April, and down from 9.3 percent last May.