The percentage of unemployed workers in DeKalb County has hovered around 10 percent for the last several months, and local officials believe that number could slightly worsen before it improves.
The county’s unemployment rate was 8.4 percent in January 2009 as the state and local economies plunged deeper into a recession. The rate increased to 10.8 percent in July – its apogee – and has hovered within that area in the months since.
Statewide, better news may not be on the horizon either.
“By far, this has been the worst in job loss the county has experienced in decades, far exceeding what we experienced in September 2001,” said Andrea Walton, a county spokeswoman. “As DeKalb works feverishly to climb out of this depressed job market, economic forecasters have predicted that DeKalb along with the rest of Georgia will lag behind well into 2011 due to the worsening of construction and the commercial real estate markets.”
The number of unemployed workers in DeKalb County has risen from 32,547 in January 2009 to 40,296 in October, according to state Department of Labor data. The county’s workforce has also shrunk from 387,282 in January to 382,137 in October because a significant portion of the workforce has left the county, according to Ralph Tower, a state labor market analyst.
The state’s unemployment rate could hit 11 percent by mid-2010 with more than six job seekers for each open position, Walton said. State banks are over-invested in the development market, she said, and, consequently, DeKalb County and the rest of the state will likely lag behind into 2011.
To lessen continued job losses, the county has funneled money into DeKalb Workforce Development, a county agency, to protect and generate new jobs, she said. The agency received about $4.9 million to create or save more than 2,000 jobs in the county – part of President Barack Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a direct response to the recession.
The county also employed about 1,100 youth to work in a summer employment program. Many youth went on to receive full-time, permanent employment, Walton said. The agency determined in-demand industries that could lead to re-employment in a short amount of time, including health care, energy, green industries, education and infrastructure. County CEO Burrell Ellis held a jobs creation forum Dec. 18 to identify job creation opportunities.
“The light at the end of the tunnel is that many think, and I agree, that DeKalb has weathered the greatest impact of job losses as we move to focus on job creation,” Walton said.