ATLANTA — The state’s unemployment rate didn’t decline last month for the first time in nearly a year, but still, Georgia has the fewest jobless workers collecting benefits since the start of the recession in 2007, state labor Commissioner Mark Butler said Thursday.
Georgia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was unchanged at 8.9 percent from April to May, compared to 9.8 percent in May 2011. And the numbers of new layoffs and long-term unemployed are down, Butler said.
But economists warned that a slowing of growth in some job sectors like transportation and hospitality could be a sign of trouble for the state.
Rajeev Dhawan, director of the Economic Forecasting Center at Georgia State University, said problems in the European and Asian economies are starting to affect tourism and trade in Georgia.
Other areas like education and health care, which make up about 10 percent of the state’s economy, are not growing as quickly as they have in the past, he said.
“Going forward, I’m worried about it. If it was just Europe we could handle it. If it was just Asia, we could handle it. But when they come together, that’s when it becomes a problem,” he said.
Dhawan said even with lower gas prices, people aren’t traveling or going out to eat as they did before the recession.
The number of jobs in Georgia increased to more than 3.94 million in May, the most since December 2008. The professional and business services sector showed strong growth with 24,000 new jobs.
Construction in Georgia has the largest over-the-year loss with 7,400 jobs, followed by local public education with a loss of 4,200 jobs. Government declined by 1,300 jobs, mostly in educational services.
The number of workers in long-term unemployment decreased by 3,600 in May to 236,900. That pool consists of people out of work for more than 26 weeks, which is about 56 percent of all unemployment in Georgia.
The number is down 14,900 people from May last year.
Butler said while there’s room for improvement, he’s more concerned about long-term trends that month-to-month data.
“I’m not discouraged,” he said.