DeKalb County’s unemployment rate and unemployment insurance claims decreased in 2011, according to the most current Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) statistics.
The county’s unemployment rate dropped to 9.5 percent in November 2011, down from 10.6 in November 2010, according to GDOL spokesman John Ard. In November 2011, there were approximately 35,821 unemployed in DeKalb County compared with 39,635 unemployed in 2010.
In December 2011, 3,825 unemployment insurance claims were filed compared to 4,221 in December 2010. Ard pointed out the current GDOL numbers were as accurate as possible but it is difficult to speculate an exact number of unemployed because the numbers reported are residential numbers and the resident may not work in the county.
In addressing unemployment concerns Burke Brennan, a spokesman for DeKalb County, said the county takes a three-tiered approach to job creation and development.
“The Office of Economic Development recruits businesses to the county to create capital investment jobs and The Workforce Development Department trains workers for various positions where there is demand,” Brennan said. “There is also the ONE DeKalb Works program.”
ONE DeKalb Works is a public service jobs initiative that will use the completion of $1.35 billion of water and sewer infrastructure improvements to cultivate a skilled workforce and promote local business contracting with government to get DeKalb County residents back to work.
The program will create up to 4,000 direct jobs per year and result in a total economic impact of $1.77 billion, according to a study done by the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute,.
Brennan said nearly 90 percent of businesses in DeKalb are small businesses and part of the initiative is to spur development contracts between them and the county.
Leonardo McClarty, president of the DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber has begun to offer a series of workshops to help build small businesses.
“It’s basically to help them secure larger contracts through the public or private sectors and we think it’s particularly important as DeKalb continues with [ONE DeKalb Works]. We want to make sure DeKalb-based businesses are able to get some of those funds,” McClarty said.
Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler announced recently that the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined for the third straight month in December, dropping to 9.7 percent. The jobless rate was 10.4 percent in December 2010.
Another major boost for the state of Georgia, but more importantly DeKalb, will be the implementation of the Transportation Investment Act of 2012 (TIA), McClarty said. In 2010, the TIA was developed as a funding mechanism for regional transportation projects. Residents will vote this summer whether to impose a 1 percent sales tax to fund transportation projects.
“You’re talking anywhere around $1 billion in DeKalb. Hopefully some of those DeKalb businesses will get that work but also the new developments will allow the county to go out and sell DeKalb to bring other larger businesses to the area,” McClarty said.
McClarty said he isn’t sure if businesses would ever be hiring and spending at the levels of previous years. He said he has seen short-term growth, however.
“I think overall what we’re seeing is, despite the political environment, businesses have begun to loosen up the reins a little bit compared to 2009 and 2010,” McClarty said.