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First-time unemployment claims increase

ATLANTA - First-time claims for state unemployment in Georgia have shot up yet again.

And the state's labor commissioner predicted Georgia's 8.1 percent unemployment rate would likely get worse before it improves.

'I believe that we will see double-digit unemployment in Georgia,' Michael Thurmond told reporters at the state Capitol on Thursday.

Thurmond's comments came after the Georgia Department of Labor reported that the number of people filing first-time claims for state unemployment insurance benefits jumped 80.7 percent in January from the same month in 2008. Labor officials said Thursday that 120,139 people who have been laid off filed for benefits in January.

The metropolitan areas with the highest percentage of increases in claims were Dalton, up 164.7 percent; Brunswick, up 163.7 percent; and Rome, up 153.4 percent.

The areas with the smallest increase in claims were Columbus, up 21 percent; Valdosta, up 35.4 percent; and Savannah, up 39.1 percent.

Most of the initial claims were filed by laid-off workers in manufacturing, trade, administrative services, including temporary employment agencies, and construction.

Georgia's unemployment rate of 8.1 percent is almost a full percentage point higher than the national rate of 7.2 percent.

Thurmond said Thursday that the state's job market is being flooded with skilled, talented workers with college degrees.

'We are witnessing the emergence of a 'Darwinian' job market,' he said.

The state's skyrocketing unemployment has created longs lines at job fairs. And companies who are hiring have been besieged with applications.