Despite some gains, Georgia's job market still limping

Article by The Associated Press, July 31, 2005

...Almost 200 employers and schools _ offering slots for about 1,500 new hires _ came to a sprawling conference center just south of Atlanta. For those 1,500 jobs, about 5,000 job-seekers were expected. By lunchtime, traffic to the jobs fair snaked out the parking lot. Recent high school grads in jeans and tank tops jostled for space against briefcase-clutching professionals....

State labor officials didn't set out to make a record with Friday's fair. They simply started setting up a fair for laid-off Delta Air Lines employees, and interest grew way past the airline industry. Some out-of-work people looked for jobs in accounting or customer service; others lined up to apply to work at Kroger and Waffle House. The military and police departments were also popular stops.

Employers called the jobs fair a hit. To state Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond, it was another sign that Georgia hasn't yet bounced back from the post-Sept. 11 economic downturn. It's not that Georgia isn't creating jobs, he said, it's that there simply aren't enough jobs. Georgia's economy is heavily dependent on aviation, tourism and convention business, and all three took heavy hits after 2001, he said.

Georgia's unemployment rate was 4.7 percent in April, the most recent period for which a measurement is available. That's slightly higher than the year-ago period, in April of 2004, when unemployment was 4.1 percent.

"The job market is improving, but we're still not creating enough jobs," he said. "We felt a greater impact from Sept. 11 than some of our neighbors. Things are better, but not good enough."...

Thurmond, the state labor commissioner, said job fairs like the one held Friday can make a noticeable difference in unemployment rates. But he warned that the state's jobs market isn't likely to roar back to life in the short-term.

"Like the rest of the country, we haven't been able to consistently produce the amount of jobs we need," he said.

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