Unemployment drops significantly

By: Megan Thornton
Cherokee Tribune

CANTON — After seeing the slightest uptick the previous month, Cherokee County’s unemployment rate saw a significant drop in September.

It’s good news for local leaders.

According to data released Thursday by the Department of Labor, the September unadjusted employment rate for Cherokee is 6.7 percent, down from August’s seasonally adjusted rate of 7 percent.

The lower unemployment rate is a positive sign for the local economy, indicating an increase of almost 1,000 members in the county’s labor force.

The number of jobless people in the county decreased from 7,953 to 7,607, which is a large decrease from 9,165 at the same time in 2011.

Cherokee County Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens said he’s delighted to see the continued downward trend for Cherokee and that 6.7 percent is “really good news.”

“I see that the lowest in Georgia is Athens at 6.4 percent, so we are right there,” Ahrens said. “Last month, it dropped from 7.5 percent to 7.1 percent — so, almost a full percentage point in two months. We continue to be in a leadership position, metro-wide and statewide.”

Ahrens said he thinks local businesses are generally doing well, citing Cherokee Chamber of Commerce surveys.

“(The surveys) show that our local businesses are increasing their new hires, albeit at a cautious pace,” Ahrens said.

However, Ahrens thinks there’s still room for improvement, including attracting major regional offices, which commission members are actively working toward.

“We are out there marketing our county to the commercial developers and have sites, such as Cherokee 75, with a hundred prime acres on Highway 92 just two miles from Interstate 75,” Ahrens said.

Misti Martin, president of the Cherokee Office of Economic Development, said her office is marketing the Cherokee 75 area for “build-to-suit” projects.

“We also have several existing industry expansions for 2012 and several more that could expand in the next six months,” Martin said.

She added that her office’s top priority is continuing to match new job opportunities with the local workforce.

Ahrens also predicts some “big jumps” in employment next year following the opening of the Outlet Shoppes of Atlanta in Woodstock as well as Northside Hospital’s new Towne Lake location.

“We are at the table, so to speak,” Ahrens said. “And by being there, we’ll get our share.”

Officials with the state Labor Department said the metro Atlanta rate also declined to 8.4 percent in September from 8.8 percent in August.

“The rate declined primarily because of 4,446 fewer layoffs in manufacturing, construction, trade, administrative and support services, and accommodations and food services, plus 31,606 more people were employed,” a Wednesday GDOL release said.

Georgia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate also saw a slight decline for September at 9 percent, down from 9.2 percent in August. The statewide jobless rate was 9.8 percent in September 2011.

The metro Atlanta area saw the number of jobs decrease to 2,335,700 last month, which is a decrease of 5,100 from August, but an increase of 31,400 from 2,304,300 in September a year ago.

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